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Supporting women, fighting for change: Glasgow Women's Aid marks 50 years

Looking back over the past 50 years, Glasgow Women’s Aid CEO Angela Devine can see how far Scotland has come in expanding, upholding and protecting women’s rights and freedoms – but with organisations like her own still facing unprecedented demand, it’s also clear society hasn’t yet come far enough. 

Ever since it was established in 1973, says Angela Devine, more and more women have sought the support and advocacy services that Glasgow Women’s Aid offers – including safe, anonymous refuges for those experiencing domestic abuse, play therapy for children, survivor-led peer-support groups, and a 24/7 crisis support helpline – and even if funding was available for 10, 20 or 30 more outreach workers, it still wouldn’t be enough.

“We’ve come so far, but there’s still misogyny out there, and it’s massive,” Angela explained with a knowing sigh. “When I started my role here as manager in 2013, I had 32 staff. I’ve now got 54. We had £1.4 million income, and we’ve now got £2.9 million. We had 32 refuge spaces, and we’ve now got around 50. We now have eight children’s outreach workers and, honestly, I could have 20 more and still not fulfil the need.

“Yes, we’ve made massive inroads, and feminism has grown and brought a lot forward. But when we were established, the movement was there to smash the patriarchy – and we’re still here doing the same thing because it has not disappeared. Looking back, the changes that women have fought for, and the rights that women have gained, sadly, have all been given to us by men, and we still need to fight so they can’t take them away.”

Male violence against women is still the leading cause of premature death for women globally, and one in five women will experience domestic violence over their lifetime. Here in the UK, police receive a domestic abuse-related call every 30 seconds and, in Scotland alone, it’s estimated at least 30 women were killed by partners or ex-partners in the past four years.

“We need to make sure that the protection of women and girls from any type of violence – domestic abuse, honour-based violence, female genital mutilation – is at the forefront of every government policy,” she explained. “We need to be protecting women, and there needs to be a better strategy because there are so many challenges to women’s services right now.

“I do feel Scotland is leading the way as best it can, but the funding isn’t always there. With the greatest respect, everything usually comes down to money – and women and children experiencing domestic abuse are not the priority. We don’t shout out loud enough about the number of women who are dying due to domestic abuse, and it’s frightening.”

For today’s girls and young women, the same injustices faced by previous generations persist but, Angela says, social media has added a whole new set of issues.

“When we go into schools and do prevention work, the number of young people that accept a certain degree of control and think, ‘Oh well, it’s just that person’ is shocking,” she said. “Healthy relationship prevention work is desperately needed from the outset. It’s a massive issue.

“And it’s an issue from such a young age, as social media is used in abuse constantly. It’s phenomenal the impact that it’s having on children as a whole – and I don’t know what we’ll think when we look back in 10 years’ time. It’s not just abuse from adults, either – in children and young people’s own relationships, 99% of the time, social media is part of the abuse.”

This excerpt was taken from Issue 5 of Insight, the bi-annual publication for Children in Scotland members.

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About the author

Angela Devine is CEO of Glasgow Women’s Aid.

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