Many of my female friends show no interest in politics and this is something that baffles me.
Ruth Bittern may be disappointed that many of the young women she knows seem uninterested in politics but there is no mistaking her own enthusiasm. Ruth applied to our Opening Doors Shadow Scheme because she wants to put political knowledge to good use in the community. In fact she had just given up a successful job in the financial sector because she wanted to work somewhere more rewarding and satisfying.
“Possibly the third sector”, she wrote in her application form, “I believe that political knowledge would greatly benefit any organisation that I may work for in the future”.
Ruth and Malcolm Chisholm at the Scottish Parliament
That was back in August. Now Ruth has helped to put together what could seem a demanding programme, fitting her shadowing appointments at City Chambers and Scottish Parliament between a growing list of voluntary placements (she is training with Citizens Advice Bureau as well as working as a volunteer with Health in Mind, ELREC and Home Start) – but her emails are full of enthusiasm about what she is learning.
I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed my first visit to the City Chambers. The Lord Provost gave me a tour round the building which was fascinating and Nick introduced me to everybody
Ruth began by shadowing Nick Gardener, a founder member of Leith Open Space who was elected Labour Councillor for Leith Walk in the May 2012 local government elections. The Opening Doors programme also includes an opportunity to learn how the Scottish Parliament works and on 7th November Ruth met Malcolm Chisholm Labour MSP for Edinburgh North and Leith.
As it happens that was a particularly good day for a student of politics – Barack Obama had just been elected for four more years as US President and in Holyrood women were very much part of the political action. Malcolm had arranged for us to hear Nicola Sturgeon, Deputy First Minister, answer questions on the draft budget and later that afternoon Ruth was to attend a meeting of the Cross Party Group on Violence Against Women, with Malcolm as co-convener.
So far, we’re pleased to report, everything Ruth has seen has only increased her interest in politics, “I am keen to see and learn more”, she writes. And we are very much looking forward to Ruth’s journal of what she learns from shadowing Nick and Malcolm in council and parliament – and following their work out in the real world of North Edinburgh and Leith.
Travelling the Distance is a tribute to women’s contribution to democracy by the artist Shauna McMullan who collected the handwritten sentences of 100 Scottish women, and reproduced their words in porcelain to be displayed on the wall in the Scottish Parliament