COLUMN: Reflecting on the women who shape our lives


Categories: News

Published in the Glenrothes Gazette and East Fife Mail on 20 March 2024

One of the highlights of being an MSP is working with talented leaders in my constituency. This month, I was delighted to welcome Avril McNeill, headteacher of Glenrothes High School, to lead the parliament in Time for Reflection, a weekly opportunity for MSPs to nominate community leaders to address the chamber. Designed at the inception of The Scottish Parliament as an alternative to Westminster’s Anglican prayers, Time for Reflection is made up of contributors from all faiths and none. The pattern of speakers is intended to reflect the current balance of beliefs in Scotland.  With her wealth of experience as an educator, Avril was an excellent candidate, and I was pleased to nominate her.  

Avril addressed the parliament on Tuesday 05 March, the week of International Women’s Day and the start of Women’s History Month. Avril invited members to reflect on the women who have impacted significantly on our lives and how they helped to shape our values and our thinking over time. As my former Modern Studies teacher, Avril herself has had a significant impact on me, inspiring me to pursue a career in teaching and fuelling my passion for politics. I have also been profoundly influenced by the former MSP for Mid Fife and Glenrothes, Tricia Marwick MSP. Tricia encouraged me to stand for election in 2016 and has been a source of support and advice ever since.

As well as being an opportunity to acknowledge women who have shaped us, International Women’s Day is a day to recognise the historical struggle for women’s equality and reflect on the challenges we still face. In her speech, Avril drew on her memories of her own teacher from school, who encouraged and inspired her. She also discussed the impact of travelling to Bosnia with Remembering Screbrenia to hear from women working to support the victims of rape camps. In 2024, we should take some time to reflect on what we can all do to help women who are so badly impacted by conflicts around the world.

International Women’s Day has been a focusing event for aid charities and organisations calling for a ceasefire in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel. The conflict has had a devastating effect on the lives and dignity of women and girls, whose needs and challenges are often overlooked. Mothers are foregoing food to provide for their children, and c-sections are being performed without anaesthetic, which is on the list of medical supplies which are prohibited for entry into Gaza.

International Women’s Day is an important time for us all to remember the women who have inspired us; but it also serves as a timely reminder to all of us that women’s rights the world over are not yet safe.

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