The theme for International Women’s Day 2021 is #ChoosetoChallenge. On 4 March, Ruth Maguire MSP participated in a debate held in the Scottish Parliament, in celebration of International Women’s day. Read her speech, in full below:
“#ChooseToChallenge is the theme for this year’s international women’s day. Challenge is healthy, helpful and, when constructive and persistent, it is ultimately what gets things done. From challenge comes change, and challenge always helps us to make better decisions.
Challenge is necessary. I get the appeal of consensus, compliance, conformity and not making a fuss, because consensus is comfortable. However, make no mistake—consensus is most valuable when it is arrived at after debate, discussion and, yes, challenge. When that happens, it is worth substantially more than the warm, cosy feeling that comes from being surrounded only by those of the same mind as our own.
Therefore, let me salute challenging women—in particular, those who are leaving our Parliament. They are the women who persistently speak out for women and girls, even when doing so is difficult, uncomfortable and comes at a cost because, in doing so, they are accused of not caring about others or, worse, of harming others.
I commend women who have different beliefs, political or philosophical positions, but come together and respectfully and honestly work for a shared goal.
I acknowledge women who centre women and girls in the work that they do, as well as women who campaign and fight against the injustices that women face in this stubbornly and persistently patriarchal society, such as the undervaluing of care—paid and unpaid, which is predominantly carried out by women—pregnancy and maternity discrimination, the gender pay gap and limiting sexist stereotypes.
I acknowledge and applaud women who campaign to end male violence against women in all its forms: sexual harassment, domestic abuse, female genital mutilation, so-called honour crimes, sexual assault, rape, trafficking, stalking and prostitution.
I thank women such as Elaine Smith, who understand that women’s liberation is not complete, and that the world right now is not as safe as it should be for women and girls and is certainly not equal.
I particularly acknowledge older women, who have spent decades fighting and to whom we owe a huge debt of gratitude for all that they achieved in securing women’s rights and freedoms, which many of us now take for granted and perhaps sometimes forget had to be fought for.
To women who have shared their personal trauma publicly in order to illustrate the need to uphold women’s rights, and have been shamefully accused of weaponising their trauma, I say that I understand the toll that it takes. I am sorry that that happened to you; thank you for your strength.
I celebrate the women in our communities, in our council chambers, in our Parliaments and in our Government who put their heads above the parapet in the face of patronising dismissal, ridicule, sexism, hostility and, in some cases, violent misogynistic abuse and threats of physical harm. I say to them: keep going, keep speaking out; keep taking action; I see you all; you make a difference; solidarity—and thank you, sisters. “