INTERNATIONAL Women’s Day (IWD) is a day when we celebrate our achievements in our drive for equality and come together to fight for progress.

It is filled with joy, determination and hope – but I have to be honest, I write this column with a lack of motivation and inspiration.

This International Women’s Day feels more reflective and painful than other years. While my focus is normally on what I can contribute, this year I hope IWD will give me something – strength and hope.

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I am currently 18 weeks pregnant and I attend regular scan appointments, along with frequent midwife appointments and meetings with the consultant. Every time I sit in the waiting room, I feel a huge sense of gratitude. I am extremely grateful for the care that I am receiving during my pregnancy but my mind then wanders to women in Gaza – pregnant with no care available, no functioning hospitals, no medicine and, for over one million, no home.

Previously, I have had two C-sections and with this pregnancy, I am due to have another. In no world can I imagine having a C-section without anaesthetic but this is the reality for pregnant women in Gaza, where family members are delivering babies in makeshift tents, with no pain relief or equipment, while bombs rain down upon them.

The National: SNP councillor Nadia El-Nakla, wife of First Minister Humza Yousaf, during the SNP annual conference at The Event Complex Aberdeen (TECA) in Aberdeen. Picture date: Sunday October 15, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS SNP. Photo credit should read:

Even writing this, I can feel my tears build and a feeling of despair overwhelms me – a feeling I have tried to suppress for months because their heartbreaking reality is too painful to even imagine.

In 2024, this should not be anyone’s reality. Their suffering is due to the failure of many governments across the world. It’s not down to misfortune that they are in this position, facing one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes in recent history. Leaders across the world are responsible for the absolute horror facing the people of Gaza.

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After giving birth, the nightmare continues for women and their children. A Gazan mother’s reality is beyond bleak – no milk for your baby and no food to nourish your body to produce milk.

The National: A Palestinian woman fleeing the Israeli offensive arrives in Rafah (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)

The theme of this year’s IWD is “inspire inclusion” and this is poignant for me. As a Scottish-Palestinian and wife of the First Minister of Scotland, I could have never imagined that my husband would be in the position he is at a time when my family and fellow Palestinians are, in my opinion, facing genocide and ethnic cleansing.

The importance of inclusion is to give a voice or a platform to an individual or group that would not normally be heard. I am thankful that because of my husband’s role and my own as a Dundee councillor, our voices are being heard at a time when there is silence from so many.

We need far more diversity of voices in our political institutions, speaking about the issues that matter to all of our communities in Scotland.

This IWD, I want to urge everyone to remember the importance of diverse voices and send a message to every woman – take your seat at the table and raise your voice. Others will try to make it difficult but the more of us who stand shoulder to shoulder, the easier it becomes to block out the negativity and hate.

Once you are at the table, take responsibility – make it your duty to make space for others. For we never know what the next battle will be but we know it needs all of us – so take your place!