THIS week marks the end of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence, a time to galvanise action to prevent and end violence against women and girls.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the global 16 Days campaign. This year, the campaign focuses on the issue of “femicide or the gender-related killing of women.”

I recently met with staff of and women supported by Women’s Aid East & Midlothian.

I heard the experiences of women who had fled from abuse and had the opportunity to understand the impact the violence they were subject to had had on them and their children.

These brave women have had their lives turned upside down after finding the courage to escape their abuser. Thankfully, they were able to do so safely. Since leaving, they told me they had faced challenges in finding a home.

Recent figures show that, every three days in East Lothian, a woman suffers and reports domestic abuse – that’s only the ones reported.

The theme feels especially pertinent this year after the murder of Sarah Everard by Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens.

Sadly, Sarah’s murder is not an isolated incident. Since the beginning of 2021, there have been at least 122 women killed by men (or where a man is the principal suspect) in the UK. In that period, I have done a lot of reflecting on the role I have as a man in preventing acts of violence against women of any kind.

Last month, Police Scotland launched the important ‘Don’t be That Guy’ campaign, calling on men to consider their potential responsibility for violence against women.

The campaign is explicit: “Men can make a real difference by taking a hard look at our attitudes and behaviour, at home, at work and socialising with our mates.”

As men, we need to stop contributing to a culture that targets, minimises, demeans and brutalises women. We need to talk openly to our male friends and relatives about behaviour that’s damaging to women and puts men at risk of offending. We need to take women’s safety seriously all year round. And we must shift the way that we understand violence against women. It’s not women’s problem – it’s a man’s problem.

I want to see a Scotland where women and girls thrive as equal citizens. I want to live in a society where women and girls are safe, respected and equal in our communities, where women and men have equal access to power, and resources and positive gender roles are promoted. It is all our responsibility to change the culture that we live in that trivialises and condones violence against women and girls.

I want to pay tribute to the strength and resilience of survivors and to the organisations, like Rape Crisis Scotland, Zero Tolerance, Scottish Women’s Aid and White Ribbon, who work night and day to support women who have experienced male violence.