I WAS born on March 8 which is also International Women’s Day (IWD).

When my niece and nephew were very little, I told them that IWD was named in my honour. They believed me and I “dined out” on that story for years. That is until they were marking the 100th anniversary of it in school and started to question what age I really was! I came clean pretty quickly after that.

International Women’s Day came about in honour of women who had to fight so much harder than I’ve ever had to do. Although the fight for equality – I have realised – is never going to be over and is one we must keep in check always, life is better for us because of them, and I thank them for that.

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There are more and more events built around IWD to highlight those ongoing issues facing women. Last week I had the privilege of speaking at an event held in parliament by CARE International on the need for urgent action to tackle the climate crisis, and why the solutions need to be locally led and feminist.

What does it mean when we talk about feminist foreign policy, feminist town planning, a feminist approach to climate action? How does it differ from what has gone before and the conventional understanding of such things?

In the most basic sense, it means thinking about issues and policies from a different point of view. It means understanding that they are experienced differently depending on your sex, age, race, mobility and any other characteristic you can think of.

For the majority of human history, almost all disciplines have been dominated by men, and in this part of the world, usually middle-aged, middle-class, able-bodied, white men. The result is that the default person being impacted by all of these things was imagined as a reflection of the decision-makers.

Let’s look at town planning. We know that men and women experience our cities and towns very differently. Rarely do men leave their workplace or a bar in the evening and consider if they need to hold their keys in their hand to fend off an assailant. I don’t know any women for whom this isn’t a consideration. Of course, the chances of any individual actually coming to harm are quite low in this country. Regardless, the perception of safety, or lack thereof, can seriously impact a woman’s ability to use and enjoy the same spaces at the same times of day as a man would feel comfortable to.

The National: Lord Provost Jacqueline McLaren, an SNP councillor in Milton, spent £17,000 in taxpayer’s money

If we accept that this is the case, which it is, then we need to accept that street design, lighting and public spaces must be created with this understanding in mind. That is impossible to do without the input of those with the lived personal experience. That’s why the work of Glasgow City Council on feminist town planning is so important. Our Lord Provost, Jacqueline McLaren (above), and Bailie Annette Christie, both SNP councillors, have been at the forefront of ensuring that the voices of women and girls form an integral part of our understanding of how my city is experienced by different people.

We heard at the CARE International event in parliament that as climate change wreaks havoc in the Global South, the impacts are disproportionately felt by women and children as they are less likely to be in the position to travel and seek refuge elsewhere. You will remember I described in my last Sunday National column how women in Palestine who are looking after elderly relatives or those with disabilities are just not able to make those journeys. Keep these facts in mind next time you hear UK politicians claiming that the majority of people risking their lives to get here on those small boats are men and therefore not genuine and not vulnerable. You will find that most of them are taking these terrifying risks to find a country that will help evacuate the women in their families to safety just as you would if you had to. How sadly disappointed they must be when they discover the reality.

READ MORE: Nadia El-Nakla: We must use our voices on International Women's Day

We also heard that as extreme weather disrupts livelihoods, women and girls face increased vulnerability to displacement, gender-based violence and loss of livelihoods. They call this group “Gen Adapt” – the generation of women and girls who are the first to have to adapt to a new, tougher climate reality to survive and thrive.

As the SNP’s Westminster spokesperson on international development, I am proud that Scotland was the first nation in the world to commit funds specifically to climate justice. Our country launched the Climate Justice Fund in 2012 and we have committed to trebling this fund to £36 million. This structure has now been adopted by other countries around the world and the United Nations. It just goes to show that Scotland’s leadership and influence on a global stage is critical despite attempts by both Labour and Conservative politicians to keep us in our box.

And the Scottish Government has also shown leadership by adopting a feminist approach to both domestic policy and to international relations. It’s worth looking up the position paper on this on the Scottish Government website.

Locally, our commitments to net zero and tackling the climate emergency must also be viewed through a feminist lens.

The National: Male and female symbols on piles of coins - Gender pay equality concept

And it is vital that we equip the young workforce with the skills and training necessary to deliver on our net zero commitments and encourage young women and girls to pursue careers in these fields. For some time now, women and girls have been outperforming young men at school and university, yet the gender pay gap remains. Some of this is down to the value put on “women’s work” as evidenced by Labour’s fight to not have to settle the long-running equal pay claims in Glasgow (now settled but by an SNP-led council).

Coming back to my earlier point about gender equality being something we have made progress on but have not yet won, I will end on a warning. I used to believe – and it was a common belief – that once you’ve made progress on it (on any kind of equality, in fact), that was it and it could only get better. I didn’t contemplate that it could slide back but I was wrong. We have to keep on top of it at all times.

Not to sound like Millie Tant, the comic strip character from the Viz, but the truth is that there are vested interests who do not want women to be treated equally to men. We tell each other we ought to check our privilege but we also need to check our progress. Never take your eye off the ball because if you do, sadly there’s always someone waiting there to kick it away. Don’t let them!