As I reach the end of my placement with Engender, I would like to reflect upon the experience and share these thoughts with you. I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t know much about the organisation when I started, but I have certainly learned a lot over the past few months and will certainly be checking the Engender website on a regular basis and getting more involved in feminist campaigns whenever I can.
Something that really pleased me was seeing the amount of archive material held in the Glasgow Women’s Library and the National Library for Scotland, as well as in Engender’s office in Edinburgh. When we consider how male-dominated history is, and the extent to which women’s voices and experiences have been excluded from it, it is great to see that all the work which Engender have been involved in over the last 25 years has not been forgotten. Not only that, but these libraries are accessible places where anyone – including you – can go and look at the material. I would highly recommend it.
The Gender Audits - First launched in 1993, and packed full of statistical information regarding the gendered nature of politics, poverty, violence, health, childcare, employment, public bodies, education, business, law, media, and housing. I could have spent hours reading these and comparing the changes from year to year. In fact, I will probably return to the library over the summer to look at them again!
Photos and Festivals – Engender has always been about bringing women together with a shared vision of a better future. Consequently, there is a wealth of leaflets advertising gatherings, festivals and get-togethers for women, many accompanied by photos which really capture that moment in time and remind us that we can continue to carry their vision forward and stand united in sisterhood.
Newsletters – As well as Engender’s own newsletter, which reaches number 37 in print, there are many others from various women’s organisations across Scotland. One which I found particularly amusing was from Women’s Voices – Dumfries and Galloway Women’s Forum – which features a small piece on personal safety for women living alone. The advice it gave was to hang a pair of y-fronts on the washing line, to give the impression that a man was living there, and to ‘put on a male voice on the ansaphone.’ Of course, such advice stems from real danger, which cannot be underestimated, but I couldn’t avoid laughing at the thought of all these single women rushing out to buy y-fronts and practising their male voices.
These archives showed me that many women’s organisations have been set up over the years and all have achieved something, simply by being there and giving women a safe space to come together. However, not all have survived and that is where Engender really stands out for me. Not only does it still exist; it is stronger than ever, more focused than ever, and as determined as ever to fight for women’s equality in Scotland. If I hadn’t known much about Engender before, I certainly do now and I am proud to be a part of Scotland’s feminist vision for the future, where women have the equal rights they deserve and safety guaranteed not only for themselves but for their children and future generations to come.
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