A change of age unfolds....1000 women find their voice.

Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.Margaret Mead

Elaine C Smith in Perth Women for Independence Event
I came to blogging through my experience of breast cancer while working as a Director for Scotland of Breakthrough Breast Cancer. I set up the organisation in Scotland for Breakthrough and as I had been diagnosed with breast cancer in my thirties and knew for all the change in attitudes towards breast cancer, there was still much to do. When I started in that role I was aware of the power of the breast cancer sisterhood. The shared stories that connected us, the warmth of that bond, the empathy that meant words need not always be spoken to be heard. The power is immense, it's a special kind of healing that emerges as a consequence. When I was diagnosed a second time when I was with Breakthrough I knew secrecy was impossible and that perhaps sharing my story would help others, having the unique platform that I did. And so my blogging journey began. Since then I have plotted surgery , recovery, loss and renewal, I have advocated for change in health and social care, in leadership and in society. More recently too I have even touched on the referendum in Scotland. I have always been a political animal but for the first time in my life I became politically active.
The referendum now has passed, the result was 55% voted to stay as part of the UK so game over and back to how things were ( aside from more devolution on the table of course!).But since this weekend I'm quite sure that will not happen.
We are living in a change of age here in Scotland and I am still making sense of it all, in my life and in my work too.
On Saturday I went to an event where 1000 women gathered as Women for Independence and for Independence for Women too. I witnessed a social movement, a women's movement  unfold and its awe inspiring. The speakers were excellent but the real stars were the women who got up at the open mic session and told their stories. Some were miraculous stories of conversion to YES for independence but perhaps what was most moving were their stories of finding their voice in that process. As someone described it...no one had asked what I thought before. In a process where very vote counted; every voice counted. Many of those voices had never been heard before; no one had listened. One woman described until recently she had been agoraphobic but the through process of her political  and social awakening she not only found her voice, she found her courage too. Her depression lifted as a result and she was able to re-engage with the world. The cheers from all collected said it all.
We were asked our opinions and we gave them with the peer group who organised the event giving commitment that the approach would maintain inclusiveness at its core, that people would be encouraged to self organise as had happened naturally till then. Indeed new groups have sprung up since the referendum and many of those there, had become active since-not before the vote. It's an organic movement enfolding day by day and no one knows what will happen next. The women were clear that this would be a movement that reached out to all women and that they wanted to learn how best to effect change.
I have no doubt this is a social movement as well as a political movement. It's not only the new politics, it's the new world we live and work in. We are still trying to respond to it through existing paradigms and that won't work. Traditional political parties look on with awe and the recent party conferences have seemed strangely out of step. The smart money is on those who will inspire, motivate and enable the community of support with a shared passion and cause.
As someone who has studied public health I was interested to learn that the messages particularly around the gap between rich and poor seemed to be the ones that influenced the vote especially in the last few weeks. It seems that economic and health inequalities are important in this social movement.  The call for a fairer and more equal society is not going away. And what I experienced was a sense of community, an "all of us first" mindset as described by " The Common Weal"
It's not only women of course who are part of this movement and call for change. And indeed it's not only in Scotland. Social media is a powerful tool in this and blogging a key part. As a breast  cancer blogger I'm part of a global network ( see Journey Beyond Breast Cancer) and have made connections across many boundaries. This has enriched my life, connected me in very meaningful ways and I have learned from so many others.  Blogging is only one way to find your voice of course but whats even more important is that we listen to those voices, especially the ones so rarely heard. That's where the transformations in our lives and work will be seeded.
On Saturday I expanded my sisterhood beyond those with breast cancer to an amazing collective of women who want to see a better society. I was so very energised by it and moved to be part of that. Now I'm absolutely keen to be part of  building local networks too.  You can't unlearn what you have learned and recently I have been reminded that we all have the potential to make a difference and together that power is exponentially increased. We are indeed off our sofas now and we are definitely not going back. Watch this space.....


  1. dear Audrey,

    I was mesmerized by your keen observations, your reporting about the women who found their voices, told their stories, and the collective forces that have been marshaled through what morphed the 1000 Women for Independence and Independence for Women, too into a viable and thriving Social Movement. how exciting to have been there to witness and hear the words of women who have already been building local groups, coalitions for community support networks that put emphasis on inclusiveness. and that it is turning into not just a social movement but a political one as well. I am thrilled for you to feel so excited, so energized, so inspired and to hear the affirmation "...we definitely are not going back." I will always believe that the universe is on our side when social justice needs righting, and I will hold that thought close to my heart for the future of your beloved Scotland.

    much love,

    Karen xoox


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