Time for Reflection

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 5 March 2024.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Alison Johnstone Alison Johnstone Green

Good afternoon. The first item of business is time for reflection. Our time for reflection leader today is Avril McNeill, headteacher of Glenrothes high school.

Avril McNeill (Glenrothes High School):

I thank

Jenny Gilruth for nominating me to speak to Parliament today.

While considering what to share with Parliament, serendipity aligned when I was given the date to deliver time for reflection, as it coincides with the week of international women’s day, which will be celebrated on 8 March. International women’s day not only celebrates women of various political, social and economic standings, but is rooted in striving for equality and honours those who campaigned for women’s rights. The aim of equality requires a collaborative effort, so I ask that Parliament takes time this week, as I have done, to reflect on the women who have impacted significantly on our lives and how they helped to shape our values and our thinking over time.

As someone who grew up in working-class Renfrewshire during the 1980s and 1990s, I will always be grateful to Pat Cunningham, my history teacher. She inspired me to be the first woman in my family to go to university. Her knowledge and passion for history and politics, twinned with her quirky humour and dress sense, encouraged me to be aspirational and to develop a strong social conscience. Not only did I learn from Pat Cunningham to love the suffrage movement, which secured the franchise for women, but she influenced my path towards becoming a teacher of modern studies and history and ultimately a headteacher. If Emmeline Pankhurst was addressing Parliament today, as she did in 1912, she would

“incite this meeting to rebellion.”

Presiding Officer, please rest assured that that is not my intention today.

As a student teacher in 1995, at the same time as genocide was occurring in Srebrenica, I would teach pupils about the Balkan crisis, in modern studies, and about Sarajevo sparking the great war, in history. In 2018, I was privileged to form part of an all-women delegation that visited Bosnia on behalf of Remembering Srebrenica Scotland. While there, we met Dr Branka Antic-Štauber, the founder of a non-governmental organisation called Power of Women, which supports victims of the rape camps that existed during the Balkan crisis. Dr Branka had the most profound effect on me, having given her free time for almost 30 years to support the holistic health and repatriation of Bosniak women. She empowered survivors to move away from objectification and dehumanisation towards a sense of independence, pride and purpose in running their own co-operative.

All those women helped to shape my moral purpose, but who have shaped yours? Please take time this week to reflect on that. Thank you.