Young women in the driver’s seat as leadership programme launches at Holyrood

Caitlin Logan

Programme to increase young women’s political participation launches in parliament on Friday

THE YOUNG WOMEN LEAD project, run by the Young Women’s Movement with support from the Scottish Parliament, kicks off at Holyrood on Friday 9 March with the first of a series of meetings designed to increase young women’s engagement in the political process.

Timed to follow International Women’s Day, the first mock committee meeting at Holyrood will see a group of women aged 30 and under discuss sexual harassment in Scotland’s schools, a topic chosen by the young women.

Evidence will be provided by witnesses from Zero Tolerance, Rape crisis Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid, and Girlguiding Scotland, mirroring the process of real parliamentary committees. 

The project aims to give young women experience of how the Scottish Parliament works, and meetings will be chaired by deputy presiding officer Linda Fabiani MSP.

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Speaking ahead of the first meeting, Fabiani said: “I am thrilled to be involved in the Young Women Lead project, a project which is designed to not only help young women across Scotland find their voices but to ensure that these diverse and underrepresented voices are heard in the Scottish Parliament.

“The topic which the group has chosen to explore is something that all too many women will have faced in their lives – sexual harassment and violence experienced in education.

“It speaks volumes for the passion and commitment of these young women that they are willing to tackle such an important subject and I am looking forward to seeing the impact they make.”

Jemma Tracey from the Young Women’s Movement explained that the organisation’s Status of Young Women in Scotland research had found that young women felt that their “voices are missing from Scottish politics”, and the Young Women Lead project had been designed to address this.

She said: “Young Women Lead presents a unique opportunity to have young women in all their diversity feed into Scottish politics.

“It is such a privilege for us as organisation to have partnered with the Scottish Parliament in co-designing this pilot programme with young women. The programme is unique in that such a diverse group of young women have never accessed the parliament in this way.”

Tracey added: “The Young Women Lead programme also supports young self-identifying women to develop leadership skills, knowledge of human rights issues, and their own professional networks. We’re aiming high, and we cannot wait to see how this programme develops.”

The project involves 38 women from across Scotland, who will also be encouraged by the Young Women’s Movement to engage with political issues throughout the process through a series of social media takeovers.

One of the participants, Emily Davis commented: “100 years ago, the first group of women in the UK got the right to vote. Young Women Lead allows us to stand together in the Scottish Parliament building and form our own parliamentary committee. That blows my mind.

“I know life is still hard as a woman. But this would have not have been possible years ago. I wish those brave women could see us now.”

The group are due to meet at Holyrood again on Friday 20 April and Friday 18 May.

The Young Women’s Movement launched a crowd-funding campaign on International Women’s Day to help fund the organisation’s third Status of Young Women in Scotland research which aims to present “a diverse snapshot of the issues affecting Scotland’s young women today”.

Picture courtesy of the Young Women’s Movement

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