Hi everyone, I’m Sophie Reid, one of Girlguiding Scotland’s two Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament. I’m also currently the Chair of the Scottish Youth Parliament and I volunteer at my local Brownie unit.
So often we hear national stories of girls and young women facing gender-based violence within the UK. However, there are so many stories that we don’t know, the experiences that build up to a culture where sexual harassment and assault in public spaces is at the forefront of every woman’s mind. Everyday women feel fear when walking in public spaces, whether going to work, travelling to meet friends, or just going to the shops.
Girlguiding Scotland’s 2020 Girls in Scotland research found that 56% of young women aged 16-21 feel worried when they’re outside and it’s dark. According to the Girls’ Attitudes Survey 43% of girls aged 7-21 in Scotland say they don’t feel safe outside alone. This cannot continue.
As a Girlguiding Scotland representative I base all my campaigning on issues that impact women and girls. The issue I’m most passionate about in this role is our safety in urban spaces. I have been campaigning on this since 2019, when I proposed a motion within SYP on increasing women and girls’ safety on public transport, which passed with 96% support.
Since 2019 I’ve continued to fight for more inclusive urban planning, including speaking on the Festival of Politics 2021 panel on safe places. In March this year I brought this issue to the Scottish Government Cabinet, at the Annual Cabinet Youth Takeover, where I spoke on the need for urgent and bold action to be taken to improve the lives of girls and young women, now and in the future.
I would not have been able to do any of this without the support network I’ve built up of members from Girlguiding. By seeing women in Girlguiding take charge and champion their own voices, I have been inspired to take on my role and do everything I can to influence positive change.
The 16 Days of Activism offers another opportunity to bring all these important issues (that I’m extremely passionate about) back to the forefront of discussions centred around gender equality. We must continue to push for more representation of young women and girls in decision-making – maybe then we’ll be able to make an even bigger impact.
It’s incredibly important for young women and girls to have their rights recognised when working on this topic. Article 12 of the United Nation’s Convention of the Rights of the Child calls for children and young people to have the opportunity to have their views heard on issues that affect them. Through groups like Speak Out or SYP, young women have the opportunity to learn and develop their skills and can directly challenge decision-makers through campaigns. When we work together, we amplify each other’s voices.
A world in which women and girls feel safe and secure in public spaces shouldn’t just be in our imaginations. Urgency is required when dealing with this issue and we are seeing steps taken too little too late. The children of today shouldn’t be experiencing this when they are my age. During this year’s 16 Days of Activism, let’s continue to work together to continue challenging decision-makers to do more sooner on the issue of Gender-Based Violence. It’s time to take action to protect the women and girls not only of today but of the future.
Find out more
You can find more hard-hitting statistics about the safety of girls and young women within the Girls’ Attitudes Survey 2022 Scotland snapshot here.