On 19 March, the ‘Austerity, Poverty and Welfare Policy’ panel discussion was held, organized by Girl Up Edinburgh. Girl Up is an international UN foundation initiative established in 2010. The panel discussed extremely complex phenomenon of the gendered dimension of poverty in Scotland and the UK, including at the University of Edinburgh.
Molly Little, the Serving Officer of Girl Up Edinburgh summarised their aims saying: “Girl Up’s mission is supporting the world’s hardest to reach adolescent girls in developing countries, and it does so through founding programmes in five core pillars, and that’s education, health, leadership, ensuring girls are counted and are safe from violence.”
One of the four panellists, Dominique Green, a doctoral researcher of Social Policy at the university, highlighted that in order to talk about poverty, it has to be defined. She said: “people often understand poverty as lack of income, but in my research and other research have been advocated that we need to take a multi-dimensional understanding about poverty and that can encompass a lot of dimensions beyond the lack of income.
“It can encompass lack of access to basic necessities and infrastructure, low levels of education, healthcare. Poverty is also social stigmatisation.” Green went on to discuss how through this definition, poverty is indeed gendered. Women are financial disadvantage compared Image: marIawIIk“Celestial Bodies : offers a platform for women of all shapes and skin colors to feel represented and beautiful.to men, and women of ethnic and national minorities are even further marginalised to White British women.
Both Lezley Marion Cameron, the Edinburgh City Councillor leading the Housing and Economy Committee and Julie MacDonald, a representative of Edinburgh Women’s Aid went on to further strengthen Green’s argument.
MacDonald shed light on the fact that similar to poverty, domestic abuse is also gendered. She said: “it is most often female victims and male perpetrator…abusers sometimes completely depriving women of control over their financial resources. Women are sometimes forced to flee their homes.”
The Edinburgh City Council has implemented policies and campaigning for the reduction of poverty. Edinburgh Women’s Aid has giving training for organisations combating domestic violence, providing refuge, advice and support for the abused.
They aim to empower women to become independent personally and financially, preventing their children to be caught up in a circle of poverty and violence.
In terms of the University of Edinburgh’s policies, VP of Education Diva Mukerji and a member of NUS Scotland Women’s Committee also spoke at the event. Mukerji highlighted that the university is doing significant work for the inclusion of women students struggling economically. The most remarkable policy has been to provide free sanitary products at all university facilities — a step towards abolishing the taboos surrounding periods and reducing period poverty on campus.
The university also offers a Discretionary Fund and its own loan system to support students who are struggling financially. However, there are serious need for improvement. Diva evaluated that the university devastatingly lacks childcare facilities. The only existing one is expensive, making it inaccessible for many mothers and carers. Furthermore, the fact that parents are only allowed to be in the Main Library with children for 30 minutes puts many, especially women, in a difficult situation. The talk also centered around what women have to face within the current political climate of rising austerity through the Conservative government.
Policies enacted such as Universal Credit have made it much more difficult for those in single-parent households to adequetly make ends-meet for their own personal safety and health, but also for that of their children. Many families within the United Kingdom are struggling. The talk concluded with a further emphasis on Girl Up’s aim to empower women in all areas – especially where they cannot acquire the economic means to live safe and happy lives
Image: Girl Up Edinburgh Campus