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Diversity Equality Politics

Imbalance in Political Representation

Women’s political participation is at an all-time low. Currently, women represent only 29% in Scotland. Local councils and parliament can only be as efficient, relevant, and vibrant when everyone is effectively represented. Capable members of Parliament and councillors elected should be drawn from all backgrounds and experiences to reflect their communities.

“There are roughly 20,000 Councillors in Britain and approximately 13,000 of them are men with equal to none New Scots diverse women. This needs to change, and it is not going to until women have positions and can make the change in May 2022 during local Government and other future elections taking place across Scotland”

Mercy Kamanja Scottish Parliament Candidate 2021

Social Barriers

The male-dominated environment in both national and local government UK-wide is a major barrier to widening participation among women and other under-represented groups. Women’s continued role in assuming caring and household responsibilities poses a significant barrier, especially among younger women and those with young children. The gender pay gap, the propensity for greater numbers of women often due to their caring responsibilities, their increased likelihood of being employed in lower-paid sectors of employment collectively mean that many women lack the financial resources needed to stand as a candidate in central and
local government elections.

“I had no financial resource available to help me carry out an independent campaign successfully. I have no family in Scotland and UK, I have no links to childhood or school friends. My social life and networks are limited due to family and children obligations not to mention disability intersectionality”

Mercy Kamanja Scottish Parliament Candidate 2021

This effect is stronger among New Scots women trying to establish their roots in their new homeland. Considering politics is a male-dominated field, New Scot women are likely to seek help from male counterparts with political experience. Some women have benefited from such support especially when the help was directly linked to political parties they are part of. Others tended to seek help outside branch offices due to a lack of support outside their local branches and at the party level. This places New Scot Women in compromising situations where they feel they must seek help from male influential counterparts if they had to penetrate through the barriers.

“In 2021 when I submitted my application to stand in Parliament. Although I achieved my intended goals as a parliamentary candidate, it also placed me in situations where I had to seek help from unsolicited counterparts to manage and run the campaign, where help was only readily available. “

Mercy Kamanja Scottish Parliament Candidate 2021

Political Integration Barriers

The above scenario clearly demonstrates barriers and difficulties New Scot’s Women aspiring candidates are likely to face no matter how good they might be, Chances of getting selected at constituency hustings cannot be attainable in such circumstances if braches official already have their candidate in mind they prefer to push forward. In addition, such barriers ultimately kill the motivational factors, self ambition, self-confidence, self-belief, dedication, and arty commitments especially when it seems as if no support is available.

Intersectionality

Regardless of the fact that I was politically active and fully involved in branch meetings for the last 10 yrs, recruitment did not put into perspective my intersectionality. I was not able to fully engage in canvassing due to mobility issues that included climbing stairs or consider family commitment hindered my abilities to participate fully in the elections campaign. To overcome this barrier I put myself forward as an independent candidate to gained first-hand experience in running and managing an election campaign.

I choose to stand as an independent candidate in a bid to overcome some detrimental barriers. As a lone parent, I was not able to fully participate in election campaigns and this was necessitated by commitment balance as a lone parent. In addition, other intersectional barriers such as disabilities intersected and widened my political ambitions of achieving greater experience.

Mercy Kamanja: Scottish Parliament Candidate 2021

Lack of Knowledge & Information

There is evidence that many under-represented groups (including women) are less likely to have access to the networks, information sources, and role models that are a fundamental requirement for candidates seeking political office at both national or local levels. The traditional male-dominated environment of local parties, where informal networks, as well as established and sometimes opaque recruitment and selection practices remain highly influential, often work against the interests of under-represented groups. There is also a clear lack of information available within the public domain about the role of an MP and a councillor.

Among those nominated to stand in parliament within a political party in 2021, we were directed to choose particular constitutional seats specifically allocated for and women and BAME only. I randomly contacted someone from one given constituency to gather more information and figure out the political landscape considering I lived out with the region. This person reprimanded that I should seek a different constituency. Reasons for his chastisements were they had a candidate they had prepared for the last 3 years to supersede the retiring member of Scottish Parliament.

Mercy Kamanja: Scottish Parliament Candidate 2021

Incumbents

Other variations that hinder women’s representation and New Scots’ entry mode to the political arena is a high rate of incumbency at elections probable at 80%. This means that there are fewer opportunities for women to be elected. Mostly, incumbents are mainly men who hold a much greater propensity to be re-elected to the office if they seek to do so. This limits the number of seats or opening opportunities available to new entrants. Not forgetting there are assumptions that women councillors are more likely to drop out after serving one year term due to family among other obligations.

Bridging The Gap

To bridge this gap, Alba Party and SaorAlba Indy Team would like to bridge this gap and offer representation to aspiring candidates. We would place you with identifiable role models to help prospective candidates among new entrants overcome their apprehension about entering political life. In addition, at Alba Party, the support system is available to give diverse groups of women and men who are currently underrepresented, the courage to take on this challenge.

“If support is not readily available within a given political party, or independently from the electoral commission, the chances of NewScots women aspiring to become politicians either independently or within political parties is nill”

Mercy Kamanja: Scottish Parliament Candidate 2021

Civic Training & Support Network

Additional support and services are available to Alba Rising New Scots Women and diverse communities at large aspiring to stand in the future elections for both local government and parliament on Alba Party ticket or as an independent candidate. Services include creating and managing your website and blog, how to use social media to run your campaign, designing leaflets and fliers, linking you up with reliable sources to help manage your campaigns, help secure funding if you live with disabilities, among other services specifically designed to help you build your confidence and stand to be elected as a woman in the UK and Scottish politics in confidence and without fear.

Workshops

This is a good time to start running our virtual and physical workshops. Other political parties have already started running their workshops now. In conjunction with working with Alaba Party, we are working with other external partners in the ELECT Her Campaign. We are keen to start running workshops soon to demystify the process of how to become a future candidate. It is important to note that barriers such as family obligations and intersectionality aspiring women face are likely to be permanent.

Although was in politics for 10 years, and applied every measure such as registering my children as party members at the age of 14yrs to allow them to join me during branch meetings, the intersectional barriers I faced are long-term. Lack of first-hand political campaign experience was a major reason that hindered my prospects of proceeding to constitutional nominations. What the panel failed to consider was that no matter how many years longer I remained politically active, what I offered was the best I could due to circumstances. I already had enough knowledge to submit myself to a post of greater responsibility. This unjustified hindrance must not be added to other greater barriers women face. Opportunities should be created to support women aspiring to become politicians, considering they are already disfranchised by default.

I participated in campaigns in the best ways I could notably, canvassing on phones, enveloping, promoting candidates on my social media, bespoke, etc, yet that was not enough. In addition, socializing aspects after campaigning was not probable due to family obligations. This placed me at disadvantage compared to make candidates. I was not in a position to socialize and get to know people who are likely to nominate me as a candidate in the branch and constitutional levels. The majority of women are in a similar situation. Through this initiative, this gap will be bridged as promotional campaigns will be organized to give New Scots women a market presence and visibility.

Alba Party, among other partners, will support you with the knowledge required and link you to community support networks. We would also work with local groups and branches to ensure New Scot women with no prior experience in politics are properly supported and have embed properly in the party. Women must be afforded opportunities to balance work life and political aspiration impartially, just like everybody. The aim is to create sustainable solutions, create integration frameworks and pathways women could access as entry mode to politics. If you are not a member of the Alba Party, we are happy to take you through the process.

Alba Party is your number one choice partner, ready to walk the walk with you on your political journey. Kindly register your interest to be included in the Alba Rising New Scot Women workshops. If you require further information kindly email us at [email protected].

By Mercy Kamanja

Mercy Kamanja, I am a passionate activist for Scottish Independence, and a voice for underrepresented, hard to reach diverse communities. I belief in equality, fairness, social justice, social solidarity, working as a collective, unity of purpose and amicable conflict resolutions.