We spent a lot of time talking to women in SRGs asking them about their lives, what happens in SRGs, why that helps when it helps (and what happens when it’s not helping), and how the movement -the family as they tend to call it- and WEvolution help.
There isn’t a single view on these matters. And we haven’t talked to hundreds of women, certainly no more than 15. So what follows is just the beginnings of a story about how SRGs exert their influence.
We start with the question, what holds the women back. They tend to see it in the following terms -summarised in the diagram.
1. Some women -about a third of a million at any one time in Scotland- are faced with economic and social stressors (that on average will, e.g. shorten their lives by several years).
2. Most women are able to cope with this stress drawing on what scientists call resilience. (Resilience is rarely some inbuilt capacity. It generally involves smart adaptations to overcome adversity and ensure that risks to poor health and development are not realised). A good part of human resilience is drawn from our family and social relationships.
3. But some women don’t cope. The women refer to the emotional response to risk as part of the problem. Many feel ashamed of their circumstances and a common consequence of shame is disconnection from potential help and support.
4. Disconnection, leading to less help and support limits women’s social capital and reduces their chances of overcoming major challenges. It depletes their resilience.
5. It forces the women to do most of the heavy lifting in dealing with life’s challenges, and such a burden restricts their cognitive bandwidth. It reduces their capacity for enterprise.
6. Many women prior to joining an SRG had become isolated and stuck.
7. They nonetheless have to continue to deal with the ordinary challenges of life, of family relationships, children, money et cetera.
8. And they also deal with the social disincentives to change, a benefit system that traps, social attitudes that view impoverished women as the source of the problem, not the solution to that problem