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IAPS Deputy Director Carole Spary represents the NEW South Asia Network at the Scottish Parliament’s Festival of Politics

IAPS Deputy Director and NEW South Asia Network co-founder, Dr Carole Spary, recently participated in a panel on gender equality in the Scottish Parliament.

The panel was part of the annual Festival of Politics hosted by the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh from 19-21 October, with this year’s theme being ‘Rebellion and Revolution’. MSP Jackie Baillie chaired the panel, with other panellists including Women’s Equality Party co-founder and author Catherine Meyer, and Dr Vikki Turbine, Lecturer at the University of Glasgow. The panel was sponsored by the Centre for South Asian Studies at the University of Edinburgh, which is co- chaired by Dr Wilfried Swenden and Dr Kanchana Ruwanpura, as part of their celebrations of India’s 70th anniversary of Independence. Carole Spary participated in the panel as part of the NEW South Asia Network collaboration between the Universities of Nottingham, Edinburgh and Warwick.

Catherine Meyer’s observant and wide-ranging account of gender inequality and her experience of founding the Women’s Equality party as detailed in her book, Attack of the 50ft Women: How Gender Equality Can Save the World!, provided a thought-provoking panel theme: what would a truly gender-equal society look like and what would we have to do to get there? Panellists discussed a number of pertinent themes: Meyer’s idea of ‘Equalia’ and gender-equal utopia, gender and political representation, including the challenges of both increasing the numbers of women in politics and making a difference, as well as important concerns of representing all women in all their diversity; and feminist movements in online and offline spaces and the resulting opportunities as well as challenges, particularly the abuse women have encountered in online spaces. Panellists offered their thoughts and comments bringing in their different perspectives, experiences, and regional focus, and drawing on their research and experience. For instance, Carole Spary discussed the status of women’s presence and participation in parliamentary and electoral politics in India, based on research co-authored with fellow NEW South Asia Network members, Prof. Shirin Rai at the University of Warwick. Dr Vikki Turbine brought in observations from her research on feminism and political engagement in both online and offline spaces.

Conversations spilled over into the Q&A session, superbly facilitated by panel chair Jackie Baillie. The audience were enthusiastic and engaging, asking important and challenging questions. The panel served as a good precursor to the plenary session following shortly after: Harriet Harman MP in conversation with the presiding officer of the Scottish Parliament, in the main chamber. Speaking about her long career in politics, she recounted her experiences, then and now, of sexism in political life and the challenges women faced in a male-dominated arena. Audience members listened to Harman’s narrative and asked questions towards the end, whilst sat in the seats normally occupied by MSPs, making it a truly memorable experience. Afterwards Harman’s signed copied of her recently released memoir, aptly titled A Woman’s Work.  

The Festival of Politics at the Scottish Parliament returns in 2018.

Posted on 22 Nov 2017 10:30am

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