Women’s Aid began in Scotland in the 1970s. Its roots were in the Women’s Liberation Movement (WLM), a feminist social movement which emerged in many countries around the world (including Scotland) during the late 1960s. It brought together a diverse range of women who were angry about the limitations women faced in their everyday lives. Through creative forms of protest they made people aware of the inequalities women faced. They campaigned on a number of issues including equal pay, free childcare, financial and legal independence, an end to discrimination against lesbians, free and safe access to abortion, and many other issues. In doing so they challenged the way women were viewed and talked about in society and were very important in encouraging women to be more confident in making demands.
The WLM in Scotland first emerged in Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews, Dundee, Aberdeen, and Lerwick. Groups of women in these towns and cities got together to discuss their anger and frustration and from these discussions ideas for political action emerged. These campaigns included lobbying for equal pay, spray-painting over offensive advertising, and demonstrating for women’s right to choose. They also set up a range of organisations and groups which last to this day, including Women’s Aid.
For some WLM activists, focusing on tackling violence against women was a way to take practical action to challenge women’s inequality. This resulted in the first Women’s Aid groups being established in Scotland in Glasgow and Edinburgh in 1973. This was soon followed by Women’s Aid groups in Dundee, Kirkcaldy, Perth and further afield. By 1976 it was agreed there was a need for an organising body to coordinate the growing network of Women’s Aid groups, and so Scottish Women’s Aid was founded the same year. Scottish Women’s Aid was set up to nurture new groups as well as to support established groups through research, legal advice and campaigning for changes to the law.
Women’s Aid in Scotland has been at the forefront of supporting women, children and young people experiencing domestic abuse; lobbying for policy changes; conducting research to enhance understandings of domestic abuse; and challenging negative attitudes. During the last 40+ years, Women’s Aid has marched, protested, lobbied, and campaigned with the ultimate aim of ending domestic abuse.
During this time, Women’s Aid in Scotland has gone through a lot of changes but at its core remains the focus on supporting women, children and young people who have experienced domestic abuse. Speaking Out: Recalling Women’s Aid in Scotland, a two-year heritage project coordinated by Scottish Women’s Aid, sought to discover, record, and celebrate the history of Women’s Aid in Scotland. More information and a variety of resources can be found by clicking the link below.