Tributes have been paid to Scottish women's rights campaigner Emma Ritch following her sudden death. 

Ms Ritch, Executive Director of the policy think tank Engender, passed away suddenly on Friday night. 

The organisation shared the news "with profound sadness" on Monday morning in a statement published on its website. 

It now intends to shut its offices for a week as staff come to terms with the loss of their "brilliant" director.

The statement released on behalf of Engender's staff and board of directors, said: "It is with profound sadness we share the news that our Executive Director, Emma Ritch, passed away suddenly on Friday 9th July.

"Over a career dedicated to realising women’s equality and rights, Emma has been hugely influential in the movement in Scotland, through both her paid work and in a number of voluntary roles.

"Her intelligence and insight, kindness, and passionate feminism have made Scotland a better place for women, as well as enriching the lives of those who knew her personally.

"Emma’s death is a huge shock to us all."

The Herald:

Emma Ritch

Friends and colleagues of Ms Ritch reacted with shock and sadness to the news, with many paying tribute on social media.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “This is dreadful and devastating news.

“Emma was such a force for good – a passionate advocate for women’s rights and a champion of justice and equality.

“She was also a cherished friend to many. She will be missed beyond words. Sending love to her family, friends and colleagues.”

Scottish Government equality minister Christina McKelvie said she was devastated by the news. “The world has lost one of its brightest stars. My love is with Emma’s family, friends, colleagues & all who were touched by her love, kindness & compassion. We have lost the very best of us.”

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Labour MSP Pam Duncan-Glancy tweeted: “Absolutely heartbreaking. Throughout my time Emma was an incredible source of encouragement & support.

"She was 100% committed to intersectional equality & did all she could to amplify disabled women’s voices. 

“An outstanding feminist & a simply wonderful human being. Emma’s legacy in human rights and equality will live & shine on, & will inspire women & girls for decades, but she will be sorely missed by all who knew & loved her. May she rest in power."

Scottish Labour MSP and one-time leadership candidate Monica Lennon Tweeted: "Heartbroken to hear this awful news. My thoughts are with Emma’s loved ones, the Engender team and the many people who admired Emma and were lucky enough to know her.

"Thank you for everything, dear Emma. We will miss you."

Ms Ritch dedicated much of her life to advancing feminism in Scotland and was a member of a number of influential organisations shaping policy on women's rights both in her native country and across the globe. 

Prior to becoming Engender Chief Executive, she was manager of Close the Gap - which campaigns to improve women's status in the workplace - for nine years, and worked extensively on women’s labour market participation.

She also sat on a range of external working groups including the joint strategic board of Equally Safe, the Scottish National Action Plan for human rights leadership forum, the advisory group of the Scottish Women’s Rights Centre and the Scottish Women’s Budget Group.

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Ms Ritch chaired the Rape Crisis Scotland board, was vice-convener of the board of Close the Gap, and was also a member of the Scotland Committee of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The Engender statement added that the group was working on a way to allow Ms Ritch's friends and supporters to pay tributes, and to celebrate her life and work.

It continued: "For now, please know that we are sending all of our love to Emma’s family and friends, and anybody struggling with this news.

"The Engender office will be closed this week as we collectively process the loss of our brilliant director, colleague, and friend."