From Participation Comes Empowerment


We have been using the ladder of participation to think about how the Empowering Women Panel can influence the National Advisory Council on Women and Girls (NACWG) and the Scottish Government.

You can review in more detail our Ladder of Participation image here.

What we are learning about participation  

Participation has to be active; passive participation isn’t participation at all. By gathering everyone’s lived experience, we have the best chance of effecting change within the Scottish Government.

We are a diverse group of women and non-binary people. We all have our own unique story to tell and everyone’s experiences are valid. We’re creating a space for everyone to contribute in whatever way people feel most comfortable.

Some of us are more confident speaking in front of a group, while others prefer time to reflect and feed back in a different way.

We spoke at the beginning of the project about the barriers we experience in different parts of our lives when it comes to participation.

These included things like not knowing where to go for information, such as legal aid entitlement, visa information and gender-based violence support. It really takes its toll as it can be exhausting and frustrating and can affect both physical and mental health.

By hearing each other’s stories, we’re learning about barriers we might never have experienced ourselves and can use that knowledge elsewhere in our lives. We’ve met people we wouldn’t have met without being part of the Panel and learned about life outside our bubble.

We all want our voices to be heard through this project but it’s important for us to know that it will actually make a difference.

As part of establishing an identity for the Panel, we decided to rebrand as the Empowering Women Panel and we worked with a designer on a suite of logos which represent who we are and what we’re about.

Why the Partnership Agreement with the NACWG is important

We were keen to lay out how we would like to work with the NACWG so that our lived experience expertise would be valued.

As we learn more about how government works and the NACWG’s influence, we are realising how we can feed into that and make a real difference to the lives of women and girls in Scotland.

It’s taking time to build relationships with the NACWG and at the beginning it felt like they were mysterious unknown people. We know that, in theory, we are all on an equal footing but we’re not quite there yet. This will improve as we spend more time together. There is learning to be done on all sides so that we all know what each other is working on. It’s quite early doors for the project and more time will help us complete our mission.

What’s important about the Empowering Women Panel

By listening to ordinary women and non-binary people, the NACWG and Scottish Government will hear about life for everyday people living in Scotland today. We’re not afraid of speaking truth to power.

The Panel is full of talent and it’s up to us to harness it and present it to decision makers and those closer to power. It’s up to us to give other people a voice, such as those in our families and communities. Panel members have so many skills that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

We are learning so much from each other, like new ways of thinking about things and we’re having the chance to share personal experiences that might help someone else.

We are giving context to what the NACWG does on a deeper and more diverse level. The NACWG is made up of people who already have a level of prestige and the Panel broadens the experiences that the Advisory Council can draw on.

Key Learning

We are learning a lot by being part of the Panel: about ourselves, each other and about power and participation. It’s been a steep learning curve for some and everyone feels like they have grown by being part of the Panel.

Some of us have been surprised by how much we’ve learned about different topics, like intersectionality and how government works. We’ve been watching and reading the news through a new lens and sharing our thoughts with each other when we come across interesting articles, conferences and events.

We were all nervous at the beginning that we didn’t have anything to contribute or that our voices wouldn’t be heard. But we’re realising that together we have power. As our tag line says, from participation comes empowerment.