Gender Matters by Lynsey Fitzpatrick









image5On 6th September 2016 in Lockerbie Town Hall, NHS Dumfries and Galloway and Dumfries and Galloway Council, supported by the national feminist organisation ‘Engender’, jointly hosted ‘Gender Matters’ – an opportunity, in the form of a workshop, to explore the issues surrounding gender equality.

There were over 40 people from a range of organisations including NHS, Council, South West Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Centre, LGBT Plus, LGBT Youth Scotland, DG Mental Health Association, Support in Mind and Glasgow University, and also members of the public along with staff from other Health Board areas.
When I started to write this blog post, I was thinking back as to why the steering group behind the event decided to host this event in the first place. There is a plethora of evidence to back up why we need to support events of this nature, for example:

  • Women are twice as dependant on social security than men
  • In 2015 the gender pay gap in Scotland was 14.8% (comparing men’s full time average hourly earnings with women’s full time average hourly earnings)
  • Also gender pay gap in Scotland when comparing men’s full time average hourly earnings with women’s part time hourly earnings was 33.5%
  • This means, on average, women in Scotland earn £175.30 per week less than men.
  • The objectification and sexualisation of women’s bodies across media platforms is so commonplace and widely accepted that it generally fails to resonate as an equality issue and contributes to the perception that women are somehow inferior to men.
  • Femininity is often sexualised and passive whereas masculinity is defined by dominance and sometimes aggression and violence.
  • At least 85,000 women are raped each year in the UK.
  • 1 billion women in the world will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.
  • In 2014/15, there were 59,882 incidents of domestic abuse recorded by the Police in Scotland. 79% of these incidents involved a female ‘victim’ and male perpetrator.


So there are plenty of reasons as to why we held this event; to challenge social gender norms, to progress thinking around changing perceptions in our homes, at work and how we confront the media (not least our legal duty under the Equality Act 2010).

But what is it that made us so passionate about being part of this work?
image12A huge reason for me personally is that I have an (almost) 5 year old daughter. In my current post as Equality Lead for NHS D&G I have become much more aware of some of the research and facts around gender equality and often reflect on how her future is being shaped as we speak; because of the gender norms all around her, expectations from her family, her peers and her school.
I’m horrified to think that she is more likely in later life to be paid less than a male counterpart for doing the same level of work, or that her relationships and self esteem will be impacted by the stereotyping of her gender in the media.

image29A friend and I had a discussion at one of the film screenings for “16 days of action against Gender Based Violence” which focused on the sexualisation of children from an early age. We talked in particular detail following the film about the impact the internet might have on our daughters as they grow up – the availability of porn, more opportunity to be groomed, shifting expectations of how our bodies should look and what we should be doing with them – and decided that we really wanted to do something about this, to make a difference to our daughter’s lives, and hopefully many more at the same time.
As NHS employee’s we are legally obliged to consider gender issues in everything we do. The often dreaded impact assessment process is designed to help with this. Yet at times it is seems more of a burden than a way of informing services how best to prevent discrimination and advance equality for all.

I came across the following clip at a Close the Gap event which shows how gender mainstreaming is applicable in situations that many of us deal with on a daily basis and how this can impact on efficiency and quality of public services, benefitting not only the people who use our services, but also our key partners:

(Watch from the beginning to 3:18minutes in for a quick demonstration on how indirect gender approaches can change the way people live).
Back to the event in September: the day was split into two halves – the morning session focused on Culture and the afternoon session on Economy. The format for the day was Open Space Workshops, starting with a short presentation on each of the topics. Participants then identified topics that their group wanted to focus their discussions around. Participants were free to move around the room and join in or leave discussions as desired.
Some of the topics covered during the course of the day included:

  • Gender in the Media
    Equal pay for equal work
    Rape Culture
    Part time Work
    ‘Hidden Care’ and the economic ‘value’ of care
    Societal Norms
    Women and Sport
    Cultural Expectations
    Being non-gender specific (e.g. clothes, toys, activities)
    Women’s Only Groups
    Gender Education
    Welfare Reform

Understanding ‘double standards’
There was a real buzz in the room as each of the groups discussed their topics of interest and it was clear that participants appreciated the opportunity to discuss the issues openly, an opportunity we don’t often get.
All of the event feedback was extremely positive, and there was a real interest from participants in taking this work forward, both in the workplace setting, and in their personal lives. Some of the suggestions included the creation of a Gender Equality Network for D&G, avoiding stereotyping, creating safe spaces for women to talk openly, promoting the White Ribbon Campaign, encouraging managers to see the benefits of a work/life balance, challenging the way gender is represented and considered across society, e.g. across social media, within policies and structures. This list is by no means exhaustive of everything that was covered on the day!
I hope that having a quick read of this sh

ort blog (and hopefully a watch of the gender mainstreaming clip) will be enough to convince a few more people that gender equality really does matter.
If you are interested in being part of future discussions on gender inequality and involved in a Women’s Network then please get in touch.

Lynsey Fitzpatrick is Equality and Diversity Lead at NHS Dumfries and Galloway

Dumfries and Galloway White Ribbon by Kerry Herriott

KH 1November 25th is the international day for the elimination of violence against women. It marks the start of 16 Days of Action for the Elimination of Violence Against Women which ends on the 10th December on Human Rights day. This movement started in 1991 and was coordinated by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership. It now has thousands of followers and all over the world work takes place to raise the profile of gender based violence and the need to challenge such abuse.

Men, boys, women, and girls can all be affected by most forms of gender based violence (domestic abuse, rape and sexual assault, childhood sexual abuse, forced marriage, so-called honour crimes, sex trafficking and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation including prostitution; with the exception of FGM which only affects women and girls). However, since the majority of the victims of these forms of violence are women and girls, when we talk about gender based violence we usually talk about Violence Against Women and Girls.

The best known and most prevalent form of gender based violence in Scotland is domestic abuse and this is the one that most people are aware of. Domestic abuse is so common that all of us probably know someone who has been affected by it. It is estimated that 1 in 5 Scottish Women will experience it during their lifetime. Our understanding has developed over the last couple of decades and we have progressed from an acceptance that some men are violent/abusive and that the women who live with them should either fight back or leave, to having a much more sophisticated understanding.

This new understanding reveals that for many women fighting back or leaving is not an option and trying to do so may put them at increased risk. We now recognise that fear has a big part to play in abusive relationships and that the absence of physical violence does not lessen a victim’s risk. She may be subjected to coercive control which is in reality removal of a person’s choices and freedoms. For many women rape and sexual abuse form part of the domestic abuse as does emotional abuse such as putting someone down; not allowing them access to money; and a range of other behaviours. We understand that even when a woman leaves an abusive relationship, this is rarely a singular event but may be a process that takes around 7 attempts. We also know that the woman is likely to have the best understanding of her risk and how to promote her safety. Leaving an abusive relationship does not necessarily mean an abuser will stop the abuse, in fact, he might increase or start abuse at this time; and we know that this is one of the most dangerous stages in an abusive relationship.

Every year during 16 days of action people ask “What about men?” there is an international men’s day on 19th November but most people would agree that when we discuss issues such as domestic abuse, rape, trafficking, etc. it is women who are mainly subjected to such abuse. Worldwide, men still hold more positions of power, more wealth and privilege than women this of course changes when we take into account issues of health, sexuality and race.

Here in Dumfries and Galloway, we have a Domestic Abuse and Violence Against Women Partnership who meet to plan the ways in which we can work together to eliminate violence against women in all its forms. You may be aware of some of our campaigns including leaflets and posters with the tag line “domestic abuse – there’s no excuse”. We have met since 1999 and have been responsible for the development of 3 domestic abuse/violence against women Strategies and Action Plans.

Every year during 16 days of action we organise a variety of ways to raise awareness of violence against women. These include our annual youth Song Writing Competition which is now in year 5. We have been very encouraged at the ways young people in Dumfries and Galloway find to include issues of violence against women into their songs. We regularly have community film shows, send messages via tweets/facebook and have training events.

We are very pleased that this year we will continue to work with White Ribbon Scotland to promote their message of men working to challenge violence against women. The White Ribbon campaign started in Canada as a response by men who recognise that violence against women is unacceptable, that the majority of men aren’t violent towards women and want to do something to challenge such abuse. White Ribbon Scotland as the name suggests works across Scotland to promote positive messages against violence against women.

There is recognition that gender based violence is harmful to men as well as women, that most men think it’s wrong and that many men want to do something about this. Violence against women has many costs to individuals, families, communities and services. Many of our agencies spend time and effort supporting women, men and children who have been harmed by abuse and who often face challenges as a result of the abuse.

Some rigid gender stereotypes along with negative messages of masculinity, can be restrictive to both men and women and can contribute to the perpetuation of domestic abuse and some other forms of gender based violence including sex trafficking.

KH 2The White Ribbon campaign asks men to pledge “to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women”. Women are able to sign up too but the main objective is to involve men and provide a platform for them to speak against these issues. Some of you in Dumfries might be aware of Queen of the South’s support of White Ribbon and have seen the cards with messages about positive relationships or the white ribbons on their practice strips. We will continue to work with Queens this year with a White Ribbon game in early 2016.

KH 3In D&G we have agreed to work towards becoming a White Ribbon Area. This means that we need men to help! We want men who are prepared to speak out against such abuse to train as speakers, we want 1000 local people to sign the pledge, we want sports groups/organisations to become White Ribbon Groups and we hope that some of you reading this will have some other ideas.

Do you want to help? Please contact us at or phone 01387 245190. You can find more information at

Kerry Herriott, Development Officer (Domestic Abuse and Violence Against Women Partnership)