Edinburgh’s Women’s Aid Discusses ‘What’s Next?’

Women's Aid Credit: Scottish Women's Aid

Women’s Aid
Credit: Scottish Women’s Aid

by Nicola Brown

Edinburgh’s Women’s Aid yesterday discussed the possible future role of men in the organisation at a meeting held after concerns were raised about the future of the charity.

According to the United Nations, up to 70 percent of women will experience violence in their lifetime. Edinburgh’s Women’s Aid is one charity that has fought to combat this issue by offering practical and emotional support to women and children suffering from domestic abuse. After facing criticism over whether they are still providing what vulnerable women need, the charity held a meeting yesterday to discuss the issues. One of the solutions discussed was to involve men directly for the first time in the organisations work.

A committee member at Edinburgh’s Women’s Aid said: “We often have people asking why Women’s Aid doesn’t offer certain services, or what we actually do now. People wonder whether we’re still relevant. So we thought, right, let’s open up the debate, ask the questions and see if we can all come up with some ideas to move forward.” Another Women’s Aid member said: “Men are part of the problem, so they need to be part of the solution.”

The Open Space event was held yesterday at St Andrew’s and St George’s church on George Street. The day was an invite only affair, titled: ‘What Next?’ Representatives from Police Scotland, the Local Council and key members from other domestic abuse charities including ‘Streetwork’ met to discuss the pressing issues decided by the guests themselves.

One of the issues voiced was whether men should have a more direct dealing with the charity. Currently, there are no men employed by Women’s Aid and any new vacancies specify that only women may apply. Whilst the charity currently works with men from other services, many of the industry specialists agreed that hiring men directly could be beneficial. This came alongside the debate that Women’s Aid suffers from an ‘out of touch’ public image.

A representative from another domestic abuse charity said: “People come to us and some do not want to turn to Women’s Aid because the perception is that they only help women ready to leave their partners. There is still this preconceived idea that Women’s Aid is run by ‘man-haters’.”

The general consensus remained that women should still form the majority of  board  members and employees for the charity. One attendee spoke of the needs of the women and children being the priority, but that positive male role models have been proven to be beneficial to some of the women and especially to the children.

The Women’s Aid event comes in amongst current global efforts to end gender based abuse. Monday the 25th of November, was the start of Unite’s campaign, International Violence Against Women’s Day. It precedes a sixteen-day global campaign to raise awareness, with statistics showing that 1 in 3 women worldwide are the victims of abuse. Secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, said: “Violence against women and girls directly affects individuals while harming our common humanity.”

Pace4Life Unveil Plans to ‘Recycle’ Pacemakers

© Christopher Gruver

© Christopher Gruver

By Lisa Moir

UK charity Pace4Life has unveiled controversial plans to ‘recycle’ life saving pacemakers for use in the developing world.

The charity, born in 2012, is working in partnership with the University of Michigan and their parallel organisation “My Heart, Your Heart” to research the reuse of the devices.

Pace4Life in conjunction with  The Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF) have recently announced the initiative to collect and reuse the pacemakers collected in the UK.

Director of Abbey Funeral Services and executive committee member of SAIF, Jo Parker said: “As a funeral director, I have to arrange for the removal of pacemakers from the deceased if the family asks for a cremation as pacemakers cannot be cremated due to the lithium in the battery.   These pacemakers are then sent away to be destroyed. Following a chance meeting with Lavan we have been working closely together on this project.  As a member of the executive committee for SAIF,  I have rolled this idea out to our 1,000 funeral home membership. Many Funeral Directors have signed up to Pace4Life and are coming on board.   I see no reason for this not to work as the choice is destroy or recycle/reuse, the families I have dealt with are more than happy for the latter.”

After the 30th of November 2013, all pacemakers removed by SAIF members will require a completed next of kin consent form. This will allow Pace4Life to begin testing and sterilisation of the units enabling those meeting requirements to be exported for use in the the developing world. Any units not making the grade of at least 70 percent battery will continue to be recycled for the precious metal contents, providing essential funds to the project.

The initiative has been met with trepidation by global leader in pacemakers Medtronic. In a statement, Medtronic said: “Medtronic does not support the reprocessing or reuse of its implantable cardiac devices. Our devices are designed for one-time use only to maintain a consistently high level of quality and reliability that ensure safety and efficacy for patients. The sterility or performance of the device cannot be guaranteed with reused devices. These devices are complex and we believe these practices have the potential to introduce unacceptable risks to patient safety and quality medical care.”

Despite the concerns of pacemaker manufacturers, the plans are greeted with much enthusiasm from those involved. Pace4Life founder, Lavan Balasundaram, said: “By partnering with the University of Michigan in the United States, leaders in the research into the reuse of pacemakers this programme is being carefully constructed to allay any fears and ensure the highest level of care and devices are provided.”

Given that over 35,000 pacemakers are implanted in the UK each year, the potential for saving lives in the developing world by reusing old devices could be huge. As it stands,  having a brand new pacemaker put in  costs over £6,000, putting the life saving device out of reach of patients from poorer backgrounds. In comparison, the estimated cost of a reused pacemaker is at £200.

There are no current official examples of pacemakers being reused.

Pace4Life are looking to kick off implantation of the recycled units by the end of March 2014.

Grants Aim To End Stigma For Mental Health Sufferers

by Nicola Brown

image source: facebook.com/seemescotland

Caption: See Me logo            Charity fights stigma with £40,000 worth of grants.

In light of the controversial “mental patient” costumes sold by leading Supermarkets, Edinburgh charity ‘See Me’ has recently granted £40,000 to local groups in a battle to change attitudes.

With the stigma of mental illness still the dirty underbelly of Scottish society as shown through Asda and Tesco’s offensive Halloween costumes, a Scottish government initiative aims to tackle these issues. Recent government statistics have revealed that over a third of the population are affected by mental disorders each year. The most common afflictions being depression and anxiety. Yet many sufferers are still being stigmatised, which according to the Mental Health Foundation, can make it harder to recover. The charity ‘See Me’, which is fully funded by the Scottish government, aims to empower these people to speak out in a collective voice.

A spokesperson for See Me, Annie Ashby, said: “[The grants] seek to encourage organisations to take a lead in changing public attitudes and behaviours towards people with mental health problems by engaging with their local community. People with lived experience of mental ill-health have a key role in the delivery of each project.”

The changing attitudes are being achieved through the money awarded to 4 Young People’s Awards and 6 Local Grant Scheme Awards. Among the groups benefiting from the grants is HUG, with the project name ‘Vibrant Highland’, who have been awarded £4,000. The aim is to create a Highland youth group comprising 13-25 year olds with mental health problems. The grant will place them alongside other young people with the aim of educating them about their rights, as well as producing a DVD to highlight how attitudes have affected them. The charity think it important that these young people have a say in vital decisions that will impact their lives.

Another group to be awarded is LGBT Health and Well Being, also given £4,000. The Edinburgh based group is the largest community organisation helping young people affected by the stigma associated with their sexual orientation (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender). The grant will fund creative writing workshops held by professionals who have lived with mental illness. The workshops will encourage people afflicted by a diverse range of mental disorders to channel their experiences creatively. The participants writing efforts will then be bound in a book, with the writers offering training and guidance on how to design the layout. The book will be launched at a celebratory public event to raise awareness about their shared experiences.

The way in which society responds to those suffering from mental disorders is improving through the work carried out in the media. Monday night witnessed the twentieth anniversary of the Mind Media Awards. The night played host to journalists, broadcasters, bloggers and documentaries, which celebrated those depicting an accurate picture of mental heath and as a result, challenging the stigma. Chief Executive at Rethink Mental Illness, tweeted: “Very impressive to be celebrating 20 years of#VMGMindAwards great contribution to changing attitudes towards mental health.”

Childline Launches ‘Anti-sexting’ App for Teens

by Rachael Bell

unnamed

Zipit Product Shot
Credit: NSPCC

ChildLine have recently launched its first app to combat the pressures of sending sexually explicit images or videos. Zipit is a free app that offers users advice and witty images instead of explicit ones. It’s designed to discourage young people sharing explicit texts, videos or images.

The app responds to a ChildLine survey of 13-18 year olds revealing that a quarter of them have sent a sexually explicit image of themselves to someone else. In contrast, over half of the young people surveyed said they had received a sexual photo or video. In most of these cases young people said the images went to a boyfriend or girlfriend, a third said they went to someone they met online and 15% said they went to a total stranger.

Peter Liver, Director of ChildLine Services, said: “ChildLine are proud to be launching our first app for young people. We hope ‘Zipit’ will give them the tools to defuse the pressure to send, share or collect these images. We understand that young people may continue to take and send explicit images but we want them to know that ChildLine is here any time to offer non-judgmental support and advice.”

The survey also revealed that fewer young people are calling ChildLine to talk about issues. Most said they would approach a friend if they needed help. Only 17% would speak to their parents.

One 17 year old said: “Sexting is pretty normal at my age. My friends and I talk very openly about our experiences within our relationships, and the sort of things we’ve sent each other. It seems like everyone’s doing it.”

Zipit was developed in collaboration with young people from the NSPCC, Young Stonewall, and Livity. It is aimed at young people ages 14 and over. The app launched earlier this month and is available free at Google Play, Blackberry, and the App Store.

Ashes found in charity shop

A vase picture by Hohum. Not vase found in charity shop.

“They thought I was joking when I said what I found. It has been the most unusual thing we have ever been given in the charity shop by far.”

Ashes from a cremation have been found in charity shop Arthritis Research Campaign in Midlothian. They were found after chairwoman, Lena Skilbeck, handled the vase and spilled the ashes in the Bonnyrigg shop.

The ashes have been sent to Barclays Funeral Services to be determine whether they are human or animal remains. They will be kept in the town’s funeral parlour until they are claimed.

When they were originally found, Lena had a difficult time convincing the other staff members she was being serious. “It was about 18 inches across and quite heavy so only a wee bit fell out, but I sweept up as much as I could and hoovered up the rest.”

“I was going to sprinkle them, but my husband said the owner might be looking for them, so I phoned the undertaker instead.”

The results to determine whether the ashes are human or not will be released until next week. The charity shop are still trying to find the owner, Lena says “I reckon they’ll come back in”.

Anger after Archbishop’s comments on gay rights

Scottish gay rights charity, Equality Network has responded to a sermon given yesterday by the Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow, Mario Conti.

In the sermon he claimed that “tolerance” is turning into “tyranny” on the subject of gay marriage, accusing the political mainstream of “marginalizing” religious opinion.

The Archbishop claimed yesterday that the proposed introduction of gay marriage in Scotland is an attempt to “redefine marriage” according to “mores of the day” and is “putting the claim of ‘equality and diversity’ on a higher level than faith and reason”.

Archbishop Conti stated that creating equality between homosexual and heterosexual marriages is “contrary to the virtue of chastity” and as going against “natural law”.

The Catholic cleric went on to claim that society will “descend further into ethical confusion and moral disintegration” if the government continues to legislate on such issues.

Tim Hopkins, Director of the Equality Network, argued that legal equality should not be denied to gay people. “Archbishop Conti says the law is there to defend the rights of citizens, but he wants to deny those rights to people because they are gay. He says the law cannot redefine people and their rights, and yet the law has done that over and over.”

Referring to previous attempts by the law to discriminate against groups in society, Tim Hopkins stated, “In the past century the legal position of women has undergone a revolution, from non-persons without a vote, to legal equality. In the past 200 years, the legal position of Catholics in this country has similarly been redefined. It’s time that legal equality extended to LGBT people too.”

The gay rights campaigning group Stonewall has also weighed in on the controversy, stating that the Archbishop’s comments were disrespectful and intolerant. In a statement issued to ENN today, Colin Macfarlane, Director of Stonewall Scotland said that Archbishop Conti’s use of terms like “ethical confusion” were “disappointing and wholly untrue” and that “the majority of Scots support the right of same sex couples to express their committed relationships through marriage. When there 1.2 billion people in the world living on less than a dollar a day, it’s a shame that the churches’ priorities are focused on preventing a few thousand people doing just that.”

These comments come after Cardinal Keith O’Brian, Scotland’s most senior Catholic wrote in The Telegraph earlier in the month comparing legalizing gay marriage to slavery.

Previously Archbishop Conti has gone on record as supporting the controversial Section 28 of the Local Government Act that banned the “promotion of homosexuality” by local authorities. He has also voiced opposition against Civil Partnerships and IVF treatment and is a member of the Catholic Bishops’ Joint Committee for Bio-Ethics.

The Equality Network is a registered charity promoting LGBT rights and has been operating in Scotland since 1997.

One step closer to become a Fair Trade Nation

Scotland’s desire to become one of the world’s first Fair Trade Nations is on course to become a reality by the end of this year.

In July 2006, the  Scottish Government established a set of innovative measures to be met in order to make the ‘Fair Trade Nation’ status a real achievement.

According to the Scottish Fair Trade Forum, the main targets to be achieved in order to reach the goal depend on National and Local Authorities as well as on some public institutions such as schools or universities.

For Scotland to become a Fair Trade Nation all cities should  achieve the Fairtrade City status and at least 60% of Universities should have active Fair Trade groups working towards the same status.

So far, almost two-thirds of higher education institutions have achieved the goal and there are only four more local authorities needed for Scotland to see its dream of being one of the world’s first Fair Trade Nations become true.

In order to meet the criteria, the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government are also required to actively promote Fairtrade Fortnight each year since the campaign was launched in 2006.

With the theme “Take a step for Fairtrade” this year’s Fortnight runs from 27th February to the 11th March. Being a key year for the nation’s future to get the Fair Trade status, the Fairtrade Foundation is asking everyone to take a step for it.

A spokesperson for the Fairtrade foundation said “It can be a simple step, like swapping your tea to Fairtrade, or a bigger step, like asking everyone in your office to do it too.”.

For those willing to find out what events are taking place in Edinburgh as part of the Fairtrade Fortnight 2012, this link from the Edinburgh Council is a must: http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/info/20103/fairtrade/1130/fair_trade_news_and_events

Action Against Violence Towards Women

The City of Edinburgh Council and other local authorities
will be taking part in 16 Days of Action.

This event starts tomorrow and opposes violence against women. The event, which has the support of the UN, will take place from November 25 until December 10. This event comes after two sexual assaults were reported in The Meadows over the past week, bringing violence against women into the spotlight.

A “Reclaim the Night” event is set to occur tonight leaving from Bristo Square at 7.30pm in response to the recent sexual assaults and in anticipation of the 16 Days of Action, which starts tomorrow.

The event, which will be run by the Edinburgh Violence Against Women Partnership (EVAWP), aims to bring together a number of local services and charities in order to raise awareness and help the prevention of violence against women.

According to White Ribbon Scotland, a domestic violence incident is recorded every 10 minutes, and reports of domestic violence have risen by 8% since 2007. Domestic violence affects women disproportionately, with 84% of recorded incidents having a female victim and a male perpetrator. It is believed that 1 in 5 women in Scotland will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.

Rape conviction rates in Scotland are currently at an all time low of 3.7%. Added to this, in 2007, 26% of Scots surveyed believed that a woman is at least partially responsible for being raped if she wears revealing clothing.

Superintendent David Carradice of Lothian and Borders Police has stated that the police are “committed to tackling violence against women and work alongside our partner agencies to bring those responsible for violent crimes to justice, while at the same time offering all the necessary support and advice to victims.”

Scotland climate change warning

Scotland is at increasing risk from climate change,
a new report published today claims.

The report, entitled, ‘How well is Scotland preparing for climate change’, argues that there will be both benefits to Scotland, and risks. It urges the Scottish government to take action to mitigate the impact of climate change.

Some of the benefits of a warmer climate detailed in the report include: fewer winter deaths, lower demand for heating, new opportunities for tourism, and increased agricultural capacity.

At the same time, the report details a range of risks. Flooding is a risk for densely populated urban regions, while Scotland’s disparate rural community is more likely to struggle with extreme weather, if transport links and essential services are disrupted. Scotland’s population profile is increasingly ageing, and the elderly, together with groups already vulnerable to health problems in deprived communities, are both identified as less adaptable to extreme weather.

Stan Blackley, Chief Executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said, “With the UN climate talks starting in Durban next week, this is a timely report. At those talks, we need all of the countries in attendance to commit to serious action to reduce carbon emissions and support those who are being worst affected by the impacts of climate change.

“While we already know the devastating effects climate change is having and will increasingly have on developing countries, this report shows that climate change will also impact negatively on Scotland, and that we need to both prepare for it and mitigate against it.”

Potential economic and ecological impacts are also identified by the report. One aspect singled out for particular attention is the potential loss of peat from Scotland’s sensitive peatlands. As well as providing an important ecological environment, peatlands form a significant carbon store, the report contends.

The Adaptation Sub-Committee of the UK Committee on Climate Change, who produced the report, make a number of recommendations to the Scottish government. These include setting specific ‘adaptation outcomes’ which seek to address potential consequences from climate change. They urge greater uptake of ‘low-regret adaptation actions’, the integration of adaptation thinking into policy and decision-making, and effective collaboration with the UK national adaptation programme.

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