Saturday, March 8, 2014

In my shoes.

 

Today is International Women's Day - a celebration of the achievements of women around the world. I thought I would add my own tribute by inviting you to spend a day in my shoes.


The crowing of Elvis the cockerel gets me out of bed these lighter mornings, rather than the alarm I hunt around for my slippers and shuffle through to the kitchen to make the first cup of the day. Before too long, I hear the sound of small feet padding along the hall, and my son says a sleepy good morning.
Do you like my slippers? I bought them almost a year ago, on a shopping trip to Inverness. I got them in Primark - I think they cost maybe £2.99, but in real terms they are worth so much more than that. Just a few weeks later, a garment factory in Bangladesh, which supplied Primark with clothing, collapsed, killing over 1,000 workers - mostly women. Primark is not a place I usually go to – the 4 hour journey is probably a factor, but, anyway, I was in there,saw these, and well, three quid is really quite a bargain, and I needed slippers. They are soft and comfy and keep my feet warm on the cold morning floors.
But, I tell you this - every single time I put these on my feet, I wonder if the woman who stitched them, was killed in that disaster - who she was - did she have a son who came sleepily through to greet her in the morning? Did she and her colleagues even have time to spend with their children before they left for that sweatshop?  I remember these unknown women each and every day, and I wear these slippers with a mix of shame and pride.
85% of workers in the global garment trade are women, and the conditions they work in are terrible -" a daily grind of excessive hours, forced overtime, lack of job security, poverty wages, denial of trade union rights, poor health, exhaustion, sexual harassment and hazardous working places." Visit the Clean Clothes Campaign for more information and see how you can help.


Three mornings a week I go for a run, and this is a running day. Once J is safely on the school bus, I go and meet my friend and running mate - either down at the community gym, or up on the back road behind the village, and we follow our training programme. We are six weeks into this, and already beginning to feel the benefit. I have known for sometime that my fitness levels were going down, as my weight went up, If I want to remain active and healthy then it is up to me to do something about it. Women in Scotland are at risk of chronic disease because of obesity and lack of exercise. It is hard to find the time to look after your own needs when you have a busy life, working, running a home and looking after others. And lets not kid ourselves that years and years of being told we are too wee/poor/stupid, as a nation, to govern ourselves does not have an impact on how we see our personal choices - especially our own well-being.
I certainly did not think I had the time to fritter away exercising, and besides, I told myself that I had an active enough life. Yet, there were days when I felt myself hobbling around like  - well - an old woman - managing to get the chores done but with effort. It's the beginning of a slippery slope towards health problems though, and I can't afford to let that happen. Anyway, as it turns out - starting this programme - half an hour running three times a week, has hardly impacted on my day, and as my fitness increases, I feel so much better and have more energy - it's certainly worth it.


Back from the run, it is time to get the wellies on and the livestock seen to. The cattle need a bale of silage and some concentrate everyday, just now - there will be no real grazing for them until May at the earliest. Even though the ground is covered in surface water just now, after this horrendously wet winter, they still need their drinking trough replenished with fresh water every day. Sheep will happily drink from puddles and ditches, but cows like a good long drink of the freshly drawn stuff. Everywhere is just a sea of mud right now. The ewes come along and share in the silage bale, but they get their own feed of concentrate and flaked barley too.
The hens are always hungry, the way they come rushing up anytime I appear outside, but at least they are laying well again.
I am always a bit stuck when I am asked to state my occupation - the "What do you do?" question. I usually mutter something like housewife and crofter. I am not actually doing any "paid" work, although I have had many jobs over the years. At the moment I work around the home and croft, and take care of our mildly disabled son (he said I could mention that). I do sometimes feel guilty that I am not rushing back into the workplace now that he is in school, but it would be too difficult for us as a family. I read a lot about government pledges to increase childcare more and more, but that is not always the best thing for children and families - particularly in remote areas. Sometimes I feel a bit undervalued, but mostly I am happy being a housewife/crofter - its a fine job description, and I have acquired some very useful skills in the process,I can tell you.



Then it is back in, quick shower, and rush about, doing the dishes, tidying around and getting a washing on. It's a never ending job just now, what with dogs, mud and wet clothes all the time. Crocs are my default footwear - they are just the most practical shoes ever invented. In the Summer I practically live in them, and the rest of the time they are my indoor working shoes. 
It's strange that our division of labour has followed the typical gender stereotype - me doing most of the housework and gardening, and John tackling the heavier outside work, and construction. It just seemed to happen that way, once I stopped working - with a baby to breastfeed and later on a high needs toddler, it seemed easier for me to assume that role. But now that J is settled at school, I can get involved in some of the heavier tasks, and John has always been happy to push the vacuum around and wash up. The croft is our workplace as well as our home, though, and I suppose we have come to regard each other's role as equally valuable, as we gradually build it up to a sustainable level.  We try to see ourselves as a unit of production rather than consumption, though it doesn't always seem to work out that way...


The weather is about to take a turn for the worse over the weekend, so I decide to take a quick trip into Stornoway to stock up on a few things. A change into town shoes then, and off I go. There is a good fruit and vegetable stall in the square on Fridays  and Saturdays, so I am glad to catch them. Then a visit to the delicatessen, where, happily, there is a special cheese tasting going on, before popping into the supermarket on the way home. I've not been into Stornoway for a couple of weeks now, so I'm not doing too badly with my balance of consumption/production. 
 It's 20 miles to the town from where we live, so not very handy if you run out of anything. There is a garage about 15 minutes drive away, but the prices are high. A lot of things are more expensive here, because of the transport costs, and at this time of year, when the ferries have often been cancelled, there isn't always a great selection of food. The fresh healthy food sells out first - the fruit, veg and milk.We are used to making do though, and often turn to online ordering. Even then, many companies charge a high delivery premium for the Islands - some won't even deliver here at all! The privatisation of Royal Mail has had an impact here already, as more companies turn to couriers to deliver their goods, and the universal postal rate is threatened. 

There is a foodbank in town though. These have been springing up all over the country, caused, in great part,  by the UK government welfare reforms, Poverty and hunger have expanded now to encompass the "working poor" - those who work hard, but their wages are so low that they fall into poverty. A report published just a few days ago showed that 870,000 people in Scotland are living in poverty. That's nearly a million! 1 in 5 people are living below the breadline. In the last 6 months, 23,000 people have needed an emergency food package from a foodbank in Scotland. I find it so hard to get my head around the scale of this, that I end up despairing. 


So - anyway, back home and back into the crocs. It's time to put away the shopping, and start on dinner preparations. Not really much to do, as I had made a lamb curry yesterday and there are enough leftovers to heat up for tonight. I am still thinking about these statistics, and about the mothers of the 1 in 5 children living in poverty right now, who have no answer to the "what's for dinner, Mum?" question. Even if they have been given a foodbank donation, they may not be able to afford to turn on the electricity to cook it. Women in these circumstances are likely to be denying their own needs, so that their family can eat the food that doesn't need to be heated.  How desperately worried and miserable they must be. How amazingly strong they must be too. The Scottish government have recently passed a bill which will provide all schoolchildren in Primary 1-3  with free school  meals. That will ease some of the burden on some families, but it is only the tip of the iceberg, and 'astonishingly', there was and still is political opposition to it.



The end of the day, and I can relax by the fire, put my slippered feet up and have a read or do a wee bit of crochet,  maybe. But its hard to forget that there are women out there in the world, working in terrible conditions to keep my feet cosy. Nearer home, there are women struggling to feed their children and keep them warm, women who are worried about what the next day will bring. In a country as rich as ours, we should not even contemplate this as being the case,  yet, we seem to be in the midst of a real humanitarian crisis. How did we allow this to happen?

Over the years, Scotland has had to suffer the policies of a government we did not vote for. The current incumbents are wreaking havoc on the most vulnerable in our society, and they have pledged to continue! We need change urgently - and, in the Referendum for Independence, on 18th September, we have the chance to do just that -  but it seems that many of us are not likely to take it. Women in Scotland make up 52% of the population - we can make a real difference to the outcome, yet we are, apparently, the least likely to vote, and, most likely to vote no. I've no idea why that is the case, but what I do know us that, it's not about a political party, it's definitely not about one man, its not about size or lack of talent - it's about the opportunity to create a fairer  more equal society -

one where people work in decent, safe conditions and are paid a fair living wage,
one where we can feel good about ourselves and our society
one where our contributions are valued
one where none of our children go to bed hungry
one where families can enjoy life, without the constant stress and worry that poverty brings
one where all the people benefit from the riches that our country has, instead of a tiny percentage
one where the solutions to  the problems in our society are not too big to tackle.
one where we have the chance to get the government we, in Scotland, vote for.

I'm not saying that these things will magically appear after a Yes vote - but at least we will have the chance to build a society fit for our needs.  To make real change happen, we need to take control of that process - other questions can and will be resolved, but first - we need to step out in faith.

Today, on International Women's Day - imagine walking in the shoes of these brave women. Imagine all the women of Scotland reaching out to them, and to each other. What will we say? Let us say "sorry."  and let us say "We know this is wrong and we won't put up with it any longer!"

Make it real -make it happen - use your vote.

30 comments:

  1. Πραγματικά ενδιαφέρουσα ανάρτηση...Χαιρετισμούς από την Ελλάδα!!!!

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  2. Just brilliant! For what it is worth I say Yes! We are stuck with the nasty party and there dastardly deeds! If Scotland can make a bid for freedom, then well done!

    I hope you have shared this elsewhere as it is a beautiful and worthy reminder of the unity of womanhood and the value we contribute in both the workplace and at home.

    Hope you are fairing well with the lively weather.

    San xx

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    1. Thanks San - I really hope it happens. Weather is indeed lively. Have a happy women's day xxx

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  3. You are amazing! Thank you for this. I didn't know it was or that there was a women's day.
    Billions of women on this planet, each of us so different yet still connected, I love it.
    Have a beautiful day.

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  4. Bravo for this well thought out post. Your days, in your shoes, leaves me exhausted.

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  5. Such a lovely post :)
    I live in Caithness and completely agree how easy it is for us to forget how imprtant exercise is. I used to think that my work on the land was enough - I now do Insanity workouts and run throughout the summer!
    The referendum is certainly a heated topic here right now. I am on the side of No though! We may have a government that we didn't vote for but like you said, many people especially women don't exercise their right to vote anyway here in scotland. We may not have voted for them but if people aren't voting in the first place then......
    I like the idea behind an independent scotland but I don't believe that the SNP are being realistic in their expectations and they simply do not have the answers to some serious questions and doubts - it seems we're all expected to take this leap of faith that has no back up parachute in place. I personally want to live in the United Kingdom, I believe we are stronger for it but I also want the scottish population to realise how important it is to place their vote for general elections. I love Scotland however I do not think we will stay if independence is gained - alot of what I have read in the white book, especially on immigration, makes me very uncomfortable.
    Until then though I will continue to enjoy my little plot in paradise :)

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    1. I think it would be very sad if you felt you had to leave Scotland, Linda. I feel very excited by the prospect of independence. Yes there may be doubts, but I think many of the questions have been answered and there are some which are impossible to gauge even if we opt to stay in the UK. Will we still be in Europe for example? I find the BBC news, and the London * based newspapers to be extremely biased in their reporting of the debate. An academic study recently showed that the BBC were strongly pro-union in their editing, and news agenda setting. Of course there was no mention of that story in the media, even though it was an important issue at such a sensitive time. I would recommend you take a look at Newsnet Scotland, or Bellacaledonia, linked on my sidebar for a more balanced view.
      There are consequences to a no vote though. The UK government will certainly cut the block grant to Holyrood, and that will have a huge impact on our lives. The NHS, which has managed not to go down the Westminster privatisation route will be affected too. The penalising of the poorest most vulnerable in our society will continue unabated.
      I'm not sure what the
      immigration issue is - I worry far more about the influence of outright racist parties like Uk ip on our society,
      When we lived in the Crntral belt, we took in destitute asylum seekers, and we were ashamed at the way they were treated. Peaceful gentle folk, escaping from life threatening circumstances who only wanted to work hard and get on with their lives.
      I can't answer for folk not using their vote - it is a pity that they don't feel engaged enough to take part in the debate - but the choice is theirs. I feel very engaged by it, as you have probably gathered :)
      I don't mean to rail at you, but I feel strongly that the public is not getting the proper information from the expected sources - the information is out there. Xx

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    2. Ps - all of the "Scottish" national newspapers are owned by English based companies.

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    3. I wish I had your enthusiasm for the referendum, I just don't. The immigration policy will be a big doozy and will effect so many scottish people and companies that depend on sending their stocks south. The SNP has stated that an Independent scotland would have a radically different outlook on immigration and would allow non EU migrants to settle. This in itself would demand a border between Scotland and England and when a border is required it opens up a whole lot of other problems that will affect the people in scotland.
      I honestly believe we would not get the backing of the bank of england to use the pound. Yes, Scotland could keep the pound but without the backing of the BofE the scottish pound will be unstable and effect the entire country. Obviously there's the Euro and although there's no definite NO coming from the other countries (though spain could well say no) there's also no definite yes either - then what do we do? The SNP will not answer these question directly, they will not give viable alternatives that we could work with. Joining the EU could be a problem also as the SNP has stated it will not send military to other countries, Obviously they're playing on the heart stringsof those in military families (myself included) but if we do not offer our support when demanded by the EU how can we expect that same support and defence if we need it?
      There really are too many questions. I've read and re-read the White paper and yes, it sounds so nice but I've realised it's the musings and rantings of an extremely prejudice man.
      I understand your sentiments re immigrants and we have very few here however I lived in Boston Lincs and the situation was very different. The village used to be lovely and the first immigrants/asylum seekers were treated with respect and help. Eventually however the place was becoming more and more popular with these people and instead of integrating with the local people they congregated in certain areas - areas that then became too dangerous for locals to go near. They were never made to understand or respect our culture or even learn our language. The immigrant population in Boston is seriously out of control now and in fact on a recent roadwars episode even the immigrants themselves stated there were too many. So while I understand your sentiment I have also lived first hand with the damage that is caused when the immigrant population is not controlled. If the SNP actually opened the borders to non EU people also, I can promise you that in 10 years time scotlands streets will look very different and the attitudes will be very different - though you may be safe on the Orkneys lol.

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    4. We are obviously at different places with this, Linda. I would say though, that this is not about Mr Salmond, although that is the way the opposition and the media want us to think, there are many groups across all political views who support Independence for Scotland. I don't understand your "prejudice" remark. if you watched the disgraceful interview by Andrew Marr with the First Minister you will see where the prejudice lies, and where the debate is being narrowed. I certainly do hope Scotland's streets will look different - vibrant and busy places, instead of the empty drab places they have become, full of charity shops, pawnbrokers and pound stores that seem to fill the high streets of our towns just now.

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  6. This is excellent. I am English: I don't want to lose you but I can't think of any reason why you would want to stay.

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    1. Ah but we will still be close by - and who knows what might be inspired in England too xx

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  7. Thank you for allowing us to walk a mile in your shoes. We are all so diverse. I appreciate your opinions about being a woman in Scotland. It certainly gives us all food for thought.

    I am delighted to see that you are running. I trauchle around about three-four days a week and it has made an enormous difference. Healthier, fitter, more organised, more productive (not to mention more knackered!). I have run off and on throughout my life but this is the best I have ever been. I managed 8 miles yesterday (fighting with the wind all the way). Not bad for someone with a bus pass! Keep on, if you can do it today - you can do it tomorrow.

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    1. Thanks Lizzi - 8 miles is fantastic - the other thing I meant to mention is how much fun it is too xx

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  8. There are no words to describe the emotion you've invoked in me with this post. Your words touched my heart more than you'll ever know. We are in the same situation with poverty, working class poor, hunger, unemployment, etc., etc. in America. It's makes me sick to my stomach that our government has done this to us while they sit back and collect their millions. There is going to be a day that it all crumbles like it did during our Great Depression. Bread lines, gas lines, people jumping out of windows because they've lost what little they had. All we can do is pray and do our part to help on a local scale. Donate to food banks, donate to animal shelters that are housing animals that are now homeless because their owners couldn't afford to feed themselves let alone a pet. I could cry a river over all of this. It is so comforting to know that there are like-minded people all over the world. You are a true blessing to the blogging family. XOXO

    ~ Wendy

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    1. Oh Wendy, thank you so much for that - what a world it would be if we could get together to organise it xx

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  9. Hello Crofter!
    A very thought-provoking post. Why DO people ask about occupations? I aim to ask, "How do you spend each day?" instead.

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    1. Lovely difference in querying this way!

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  10. That will be my new conversation line. " How do you spend your days?" I loved your post today, the concept, the story and your feelings and words. Perfect for thinking. Jo x

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  11. A powerful post....I read with tears in my eyes. Tomorrow, I will share this with my daughter and we will find a way to contribute to the "Women for Independence" fund.

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    1. Meg give - that is wonderful - thank you. I hope, when we share that walk together in will be in an Independent Scotland xx

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  12. It's alright for you lot, you get a chance to get away from these Etonian muppets - what do they rest of us do??! I'm emigrating to Scotland!!

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  13. I loved seeing your very full day and your reflections. I've stayed at home and haven't returned to the workplace but I am so busy with the house and running it :)

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  14. thanks for a lovely post, honoring women everywhere. great thoughts and thanks for taking us along on your day. you accomplish a lot in a day - whew! also, being a bit of a shoe buyer, I have to say that I particularly like your red shoes and your black shoes (the ones that look a bit alike).

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  15. I'm with Debbie. We can share a moving truck!

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  16. "The Scottish government have recently passed a bill which will provide all schoolchildren in Primary 1-3 with free school meals. That will ease some of the burden on some families, but it is only the tip of the iceberg, and 'astonishingly', there was and still is political opposition to it."

    I generally agree with much that you say, but I must quibble about this point. Many children in Scotland are already entitled to free school dinners, and in many areas, breakfasts, and this should include all families who are claiming benefits to help them afford to bring up their family.
    To give free school meals to ALL children in P1 to P3, including those whose parents may earn in excess of £100K a year, and all those who can well afford to pay, seems to me to be misdirecting valuable resources. This policy will cost local authorities and the Scottish Government millions and millions of pounds, and I really feel this money would be much better targeted at those truly in need. I would prefer more after school clubs, with healthy snacks available, were opened for children - that would ease the burden on families who are struggling, without giving free meals to the rich and middle class families who do not need them.

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    1. I see you point, Anon. I think about 20% of children now qualify for free meals, but there are so many whose parents are working, but on low pay, or zero hours who don't currently qualify. The Child Poverty Action Group campaigned for this very outcome and other charities and Unions also felt it was a good use of resources. I think if it means all children have the same chances somewhere in life - then that is a good. I can still remeber the children in my class who were the "free dinner" children, so removing that stigma is also good.

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