Friday 8 March 2019 marks International Women’s Day
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People all over the world will take part in activities and events celebrating women's social, economic, cultural and political achievements while calling for a more gender-balanced world.

This year’s theme, #BalanceforBetter, helps us focus on how we can better support the development of a sustainable gender balanced society, which is better for everyone.

Scotland’s councils work across communities to ensure all our citizens are safe, respected and equal in our communities. ‘Balancing for better’ includes promoting positive gender roles, challenging gender stereotypes and inequalities across all the services and functions that are part of our core business. As councils across Scotland employ 244,000 people, with 67% of those being women, this includes our role as a major employer.

As we mark International Women’s Day COSLA (the representative voice of Scottish local government) formally congratulates the seven councils that are participating in a groundbreaking pilot accreditation programme ‘Equally Safe at Work.’

Working with ‘Close the Gap’, Aberdeen City, Highland, Midlothian, North Lanarkshire, Perth & Kinross, Shetland and South Lanarkshire Councils are this year piloting the approach that will see them aligning their employers’ practice with the Equally Safe at Work standards across the areas of leadership; data; flexible working; occupational segregation; workplace culture and violence against women.

Other councils not currently part of this initial pilot are working in a shadow group to develop knowledge through the work of this first cohort. COSLA recognises that there has been a great deal of work already undertaken across local authorities to protect and support survivors of gender-based violence.

COSLA congratulates South Ayrshire Council for adopting a new ‘Safe Leave’ policy. It follows the recent example of New Zealand’s Government, which recently passed the world leading ‘Victim’s Protection Bill’ to give survivors of domestic abuse up to two weeks additional paid leave. This leave is safety orientated so domestic abuse survivors can take the required actions to protect themselves and their families and to re-stabilise their lives.

North Ayrshire Council is considering a similar move and is amongst a number of other council’s whose current domestic abuse and special leave policies already provide similar support. For example, South Lanarkshire’s approach recognises the practical arrangements that need to be made and allows time off to make bank account changes attend solicitor meetings, Social Work appointments, among many others.

The most important thing for these employee assistance support arrangements is that they recognise that needs will vary between individuals according to their circumstances.

As co-owners of Equally Safe, Scotland’s Strategy to prevent and eradicate violence against violence against women and girls, Local Government is committed to ensuring that local councils contribute to changing the story for women and girls and for men and boys. Through challenging the attitudes, behaviours, structures and systems that undermine equality in our communities we will continue to work towards the aim of a sustainable gender balanced society for all.