THE Sunday Herald's Vicky Allan has won the award for the best article illustrating violence against women and promoting gender equality in the fourth annual Write to End Violence Against Women Awards, organised by the Zero Tolerance campaign.

Entitled, India – in the land where women are deemed worthless, her winning feature highlighted cases of rape and violence against women in India which have made headlines around the world, but warned of a failure by some to link these to wider issues of gender inequality.

She wrote: “These tales of horror and violence…are the tip of an iceberg, a distraction from the bigger story about gender in India, which isn’t one of stranger is of what happens in home and family. It is what happens when a whole gender is devalued. It is a story that begins in the womb.”

The judges praised Allan’s “well-researched and engaging journalism which lays out the daily reality of women and girls in India”, commenting that “this impressive piece shines a light not only on the killing of baby girls, but also the myriad of barriers facing girls and women in India throughout their lives.”

Speaking after receiving her award Allan said: “One thing that isn’t really clear unless you really think about it is the role gender inequality has [in violence against women]. That’s what I was hoping to get across in the piece, that although I was writing about what was happening in India, it was the same issues, the same structures, the same things that were having an impact on women there as here, even though it might seem more extreme."

The Sunday Herald is media partner for the awards, which were held in the Scottish parliament on Tuesday evening. They aim to highlight the role of good reporting in increasing understanding of violence against women and dispelling stereotypes harmful to them. The ceremony is held during 16 days of action, which runs annually from 25th November – 10 December.

The campaign is also supported by NUJ Scotland, White Ribbon Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid, Engender, Everyday Victim Blaming, Women 50:50, Rape Crisis Scotland, Women for Independence and the Scottish Refugee Council.

Awards ceremony sponsor Christina McKelvie MSP and Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities Angela Constance emphasised the link between media reporting of gender based violence and society’s attitudes towards women in their speeches to the audience.

Constance said: “These awards recognise the best in journalism and writing as well as the power of language and how it can influence individual behaviours and actions.”

* Best Article – News: Sexist hate crimes given second-class status, says senior Tory MP, by Libby Brooks, The Guardian.

Brooks reported on Nottinghamshire police force’s pioneering policy to recognise misogyny as a hate crime and a call for the approach to be adopted nationwide. In her winning article, Brooks wrote of responses some women have received when reporting street harassment.

“One Londoner described how a 999 call handler insisted that she return to the road where a man had followed her, threatening to rape and murder her, to confirm the spelling of the street name."

She said of her win: “I think that the media is gradually becoming more aware of its responsibilities in terms of reporting of violence against women, but some outlets in particular have a long way to go. It's easy to feel fairly powerless in the face of huge media organisations but groups like Zero Tolerance and Women 50:50 have been great at galvanising women to call out bad practice where they find it.”

Also shortlisted were Karin Goodwin and Judith Duffy of the Sunday Herald and Victoria Weldon of The Herald.

* Best Blog: Self-Care or Speaking Out? A Black Feminist Dilemma by Claire Heuchan in her blog Sister Outrider.

Heuchan wrote: “The abuse I receive online has reached new heights. For the first time (and probably not the last) I feel physically unsafe because of it. Along with the persistent misogyny, the overt racism, the steady drip drip drip of 'shut up nigger', there is something new: the threat of violence."

She said after her win: “It’s incredibly moving to have won this award. I started my blog about a year and a half ago and I did that because nobody was really asking any of the questions I had about race and feminism and how the two sets of politics fit together and I was waiting and waiting for someone else to say these things. One day it dawned on me that no one was and I thought I should start.”

* Best Article – Student and Young Person: Whose streets? Our streets! – How Glasgow reclaimed the night, by Lucy Miller, The Glasgow Guardian

* Gender Equality Award 2016: Women and Migration: Home Office must act to save lives, by Karin Goodwin, Lyra McKee and Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi, The Ferret.

They wrote: “Asylum seeking women have been told by legal advisors that they should consider staying with abusive partners rather than risk losing their right to remain the UK, according to evidence uncovered.

Lawyers, psychologists and campaigners claim that Home Office guidelines, stating that women have to prove they have been abused, mean that women are often forced to stay in dangerous situations because they are scared of being sent home."

Zero Tolerance opted to award the Wooden Spoon, given to media coverage which is considered to be sexist, upholds myths about rape and sexual assault or perpetuates harmful gender stereotypes, to the theme of the ‘Invisible Woman’ rather than to an individual article or journalist, reflecting what the organisation says is a tendency by some reporting on violence against women to all but erase women from the story, in favour of focussing on the male perpetrators.