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Woman to Woman – Blog 3

My name is Afaq. #WomanToWoman, I want to share my story about how volunteering has helped me gain confidence and independence.

Growing up in Iraq, I studied computer science and enjoyed it. After graduating, I found work at an architectural design company. After a while, I got married and started a family, and left my work in computing.

A few years ago, my husband applied for a postgraduate scholarship to study overseas. He was accepted to study in Dundee so we came here two years ago.

When I came here I felt depressed and homesick. There was a lot of culture shock and I struggled to communicate. The local accent was difficult for me. We met some other Iraqis and I asked how I could learn more English. Amina MWRC was recommended and I came to a class and really enjoyed it. After the New Year break I came to the next full set of English Conversation classes, which were taught by an ESOL teacher called Gloria. She encouraged me to volunteer with Amina. I said yes because I wanted to improve my language skills and meet more people. At first, I wasn’t sure of the skills I had to offer but now, after a year, I know more about the way I can help people. After being a volunteer here, I would like to offer this kind of support to women in my home country when I go back.  Iraq has a lot of problems and women there could use this kind of help.

When I started volunteering, I wasn’t focussed on finding work, but as time has gone on, I have been thinking about working more. I found paid sessional work with Amina, teaching a group of women how to use computers. This is the first time I had paid work in the UK and also a long time since I worked outside the home. It has made me really happy. It showed me I can manage my time, my other responsibilities and made me aware of a new skill – teaching.

I enjoy volunteering because I know how much Amina helped me at first, when I didn’t know many people and wasn’t confident speaking English. I want other women to have the same support and companionship I found here.

#WomanToWoman, being a volunteer helped me to support others, and it helped my confidence, language and skills. Sharing my time with others feels like a blessing.

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Self-Care Manual for Women

AMINA MWRC LAUNCHES NEW MULTILINGUAL SELF-CARE MANUAL FOR WOMEN ON WORLD RELAXATION DAY!

“When it comes to self-care there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. Our Self-care Manual for Women is intended as a step-by-step guide that will help you to establish an approach that best suits you. This is the start of something new – something personal, positive and important. Even more than that, the journey of self-care is intended to support you in establishing and maintaining an approach that fits with your unique life circumstances…your strengths, challenges and needs,” said Self-care Workshop Facilitators, Mariem Omari and Katie Boyle.

What inspired us?

Amina MWRC has been delivering self-care workshops across Scotland since February 2015 under our Ending Violence Against Women Programme. Our workshops provide support for women who have experienced violence, abuse and trauma. Inspired by the feedback our participants gave about wanting a guide to both monitor their own self-care, and provide steps to becoming a facilitator, our new Self-care Manual for Women was created.

What we considered in the design?

The Self-care Manual for Women has been designed to ensure it is intuitive, easy to navigate, and able to be printed off at home. The 39-page manual outlines the Five Dimensions of Health and the self-care tools and activities we have used in our workshops, along with a sample one-day schedule. We also wanted it to be particularly inspiring for women from minority ethnic/Muslim backgrounds, as women from these communities make up the majority of our workshop participants. So we selected quotes that speak to their traditions and their faith.

What next?

The Self-care Manual for Women is currently being translated into Arabic and Urdu, and will be distributed to the women who have participated in our self-care workshops for their use, and/or to support them in future self-facilitated workshops. Train-the-Trainer sessions are also being planned to support women who have participated in our workshops to be able to self-facilitate their own groups.

Where you can get it?

To download your copy of the Self-care Manual for Women please go to https://mwrc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Self-Care-Manual-for-Women-1.pdf

Arabic and Urdu translations will also be available from this link in September.

My Big Beating Voice!

 

 

We’re so excited about our new project, My Big Beating Voice, with Amina Muslim Women’s Resource Centre. The project marks next year’s centenary of the suffragette movement, and aims to work with young Muslim and /or ethnic minority young women to explore issues to do with gender inequality and grow our big, beating voices.

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To find out more visit the project website https://mybigbeatingvoice.wixsite.com/mybigbeatingvoice
Contact:  MBBV@mwrc.org.uk

Woman to Woman – Blog 2

W2W Blog 2

Woman to woman, let me tell you about when I escaped an abusive husband.

I’ll be honest; I still feel I should have been the one to leave. I knew the way my ex-husband treated us was wrong. Even though I tried to make it work well past the point I should have left, I knew enough about abusive relationships to know it was affecting my health, my mood, and also making my children miserable. But it was him – he got impatient with us and felt his life was too busy with a family, and he said he wanted a divorce and stormed off.

However, I had to be strong to deal with what happened next. I felt so incredibly peaceful and happy after he was gone. I was able to meet friends, to finish my studies, to get on with making a life. I knew deep down this was so much better for everyone. My ex-husband, however, decided he wanted to come back within a few months. At first, he was very pleasant so I thought we were getting on well and communicating for the children. Then, he got nasty. He threatened me. He would come to the house and hit things – my bins, my shed. I didn’t like him shouting and hitting things in my home. He bombarded me with e-mails. It took me back to the place I was emotionally before he left.

The children were also upset. He used to ask them what I was up to, and who with, constantly. They felt torn. One of my children didn’t want to see him anymore.

I eventually picked up the phone and called Women’s Aid.  I didn’t know if I would be able to get support from them. I knew some women experienced different forms of abuse, and my ex-husband had never put me in hospital with his violence. They reassured me that the abuse I was suffering was definitely serious and warranted their support. At first, I only really wanted support for the children as I was worried about them. However, the worker who supported me was so kind and helpful. She reassured me. She helped me to get my confidence back.

I also accessed counselling which let me explore the impact of the relationship on me, how it affected my closeness with my parents, how it was making me ill.

Once I was honest with myself about what we needed, I decided I should get a divorce. This was not an easy process but I had help accessing legal aid, and my solicitor was great.

Now, I’m working and supporting my family. My husband went back to his home country and he sees the children during the holidays.  It is not always easy but I feel we have better boundaries since the divorce. My children are so much happier now and they do better at school. They have more friends, and to be honest, so do I! I used to be so lonely.

#WomanToWoman, Women’s Aid helped me get my life back, and helped my children recover.

#YouCanChangeThis
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Woman to Woman – Blog 1

W2W Maheen

 

I’m Maheen and I’m from Pakistan. #WomanToWoman, I want to talk to you about feminism. When I was growing up in Pakistan I went to an all-girls school. There was lots of talk about empowerment and ambition amongst women- how we could do anything, and could smash barriers, but it was fairly superficial. We didn’t get into the nuances of feminism, and we were in a protected environment so didn’t have so much of an idea about inequality in the real world. In Pakistan, we did discuss women’s rights, and the way social class influences outcomes, but we didn’t use the word feminism.

Now, if you asked me what feminism meant, I would say it’s a philosophy that supports all women accessing power, no matter the circumstances they were born into.

In 2005 I went to Canada to study in sociology and psychology. This was really liberating because I had a lot of friends who were well-informed feminists. I was intrigued and took classes on feminism, reading about the sociology of gender, feminist philosophy and the sociology of work. I took on a part-time job and this was the first time I’d worked, so it gave me more of a sense of the real world and how gender politics play out. This is when I became aware of intersectional feminism (feminism that takes into account all women’s diverse experiences, not only the majority). In Pakistan I was in a majority but in Canada I was in a minority. My awareness of difference was political – a growing awareness of the way race and class influence how sexism plays out, and personal – I was more aware of differences such as my accent, or the way I dress. I felt less confident to speak out in class, for example, than I would have back home.

My room-mate ran for election in student council. I supported her in her campaign and enjoyed it so much, I then became more involved in student activism. I was part of the ‘No Means No’ campaign on campus to raise awareness of the issue of consent.

We also worked to ensure the student council became more diverse and representative of the student body.

I attended our local ‘Take Back The Night’ march, which was part of a wider campaign to end sexual violence and victim-blaming.

 

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These experiences were so powerful, I knew I wanted to devote my life to helping marginalised people and fighting against structural inequalities. Since then, that’s what I’ve done. In the past, in Pakistan, I worked to make high-quality education accessible to boys and girls in low-income schools. I trained caregivers in childhood sexual abuse.  I moved to Scotland and I was really glad to hear about Amina existing as it supported everything I believe in. I started volunteering here and now I work on the Employability team, helping other women to overcome barriers and find work, volunteering and greater confidence in their skills, and I’m also an ESOL tutor, supporting women to improve their skills in conversational English.

When you first learn about inequality, it’s so hard to take in, it’s easier to ignore the problem or resist the facts. But the more you read and interact with a diverse group of people who share their thoughts on the issues, the more your understanding grows.

#WomanToWoman, there’s nothing more empowering than taking action against inequality. Each woman can make a difference!

#womantowoman  #youcanchangethis
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HOPSCOTCH Film launch

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A film by Roxana Vilk based on Nadine Aisha’s poem ‘Hopscotch’

What happens when you walk down the street…if you’re a young woman of colour…who may or may not wear a hijab? ‘Hopscotch’ produced by Amina – Muslim Women’s Resource Centre with support from Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre, explores just that. A film poem based on the true account of the harassment and violence experienced by women of colour and Muslim women in public spaces, ‘Hopscotch’ aims to highlight the lived reality for many women across Scotland today.

The launch and private screening of Hopscotch was a huge success!

On Friday 26th May 2017, over 50 people from different organisations, Imams, politicians, film makers and poets came to the launch and  private screening of Hopscotch at the Scottish Poetry Library (SPL) in Edinburgh.

The screening of the film was followed by a panel discussion with the talented film Director Roxana Vilk who shed light on the concept of the film and the techniques used, the poet Nadine Aisha Jassat who spoke about how her experiences of street harassment was the force behind her poem Hopscotch and Amina staff member Safa Yousaf who shared a powerful account of the sexual harassment, racism and Islamophobia she has faced as young Muslim women of Pakistani origin.

The panel discussion was closed with a poem recited by two young BME Muslim women from young Saheliya.

To end there was a lovely selection of canapes and cakes and much discussion and networking enjoyed by the guests on the open air balcony at SPL.

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PRESS RELEASE – Announcement: Spirit of Women

Amina – Muslim Women’s Resource Centre Receives Spirit of Women Grant

 ‘My Big Beating Voice’ project to challenge gender norms and stereotypes

Amina – Muslim Women’s Resource Centre (MWRC) is delighted to announce that it has been chosen to receive a Spirit of Women Changemakers small grant. Funding charity Spirit of 2012 (Spirit) created the Changemakers programme to mark and celebrate the centenary of the iconic moment in 1918 when women first won the right to vote.  The Fawcett Society, the UK’s leading membership charity campaigning for gender equality and women’s rights, delivers the grants programme in partnership with business services company BE Group.

Amina – MWRC in partnership with the Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre (ERCC) is amongst seven recipients who will receive grants of £8,000 to £15,000 to work in communities across the UK. In the year running up to the centenary celebrations in March 2018, we will deliver our project, ‘My Big Beating Voice’, which will focus on creating a safe, yet dynamic, creative space where minority ethnic girls can develop their voice and share their views. A series of workshops will be run with the girls with a focus on VAW and challenging perceptions of beauty and gender stereotypes. The themes that will be explored with the girls will include sexual harassment, isolation, and negative body perceptions (i.e. body hair, skin colour, clothing choices). The project will focus on improving the confidence, wellbeing and mental health of young women and girls, who through disability and/or forms of VAW, have experienced ongoing lack of self-esteem, unworthiness or self-hatred.

Alongside these aims, the projects will look to change perceptions of disability and drive social cohesion. Demand was high, as over 400 charities and social enterprises applied to the programme, through systems designed by leading business services company BE Group. The final grantees were selected by an expert panel of women with civil society and funding experience.

Samina Ansari, Amina – MWRC’s Chief Executive, said:

“We are so excited to be selected as one of the organisations for this incredible opportunity to creatively work with minority ethnic young women and girls in Edinburgh, in partnership with Edinburgh Rape Crisis to support and amplify their too often under-represented voices on identity, body confidence and image, and gender stereotypes.

Sam Smethers, Fawcett Society Chief Executive said:

“We were delighted with the quality and diversity of the many applications we received, which demonstrated the ambition in the voluntary sector to tackle the harmful norms and

stereotypes that underlie gender inequality in our society. We are looking forward to working alongside these great organisations to drive real change across the country.”

Debbie Lye, Chief Executive of Spirit of 2012, said:

“100 years on from women getting the right to vote in general elections, women and girls in the UK still face formidable challenges. Spirit is proud to be collaborating with Fawcett and BE Group to fund these innovative projects, which will celebrate women and empower them to change things for the better.”

The funded activity includes work across England, Scotland, and Wales, with women across different age ranges, ethnic groups, and disabled and non-disabled people. It ranges from a media and workshop campaign to change perceptions of disabled women in Wales, to intensive workshops on objectification with at-risk girls in south London.

About Amina – MWRC

Amina – MWRC is an award-winning organisation, recognised by minority ethnic and Muslim communities within Scotland for its pioneering and responsive approach to addressing the issues and needs of Muslim and minority ethnic women. Having invested in this specialist area where there was previously a gap in services in Scotland, Amina is recognised as the national hub for gaining access to, and consulting with Muslim and minority ethnic women across Scotland.

About the Fawcett Society

The Fawcett Society is the UK’s leading charity campaigning for gender equality and women’s rights. For 150 years, our aim has been to help bring about a society where the gender you are does not limit the life chances you have.

www.fawcettsociety.org.uk

@fawcettsociety

About Spirit of 2012

Spirit of 2012 is a funding charity, established with a £47m endowment from the Big Lottery Fund.  We fund partners across the UK that provide opportunities in sports, physical activity, arts and culture, volunteering and social action. Spirit was founded to continue and recreate the spirit of pride, positivity and social connectedness that people experienced during the London 2012 Games.  We invest to create good outcomes for people and communities.

About BE Group

The BE Group is a market leading specialist in business information, events and commercial development programmes.

With a well-deserved reputation for delivering exceptional results, BE Group’s comprehensive portfolio of services for business is based on the individual requirements of our customers.

For further information, interviews or images please contact

Fresh Communication 0845 0945 468

Nathalie Golden nathalie@freshcommunication.co.uk 07769 66 66 27

Abby Richardson abby@freshcommunication.co.uk 07876 378 733

Editor’s notes:

Link to online press release

 

The Spirit of Women Changemakers grants programme was launched by Spirit of 2012 Chief Executive Debbie Lye at Fawcett’s Spirit of Women Changemakers Conference in Manchester on 19th November 2016.

Changemakers offered grants of between £5,000 and £15,000 to organisations for new projects which offer creative, cultural, sporting or volunteering responses to the following challenges:

  • Improve women’s body confidence and challenge or overcome objectification
  • Challenge traditional gendered caring roles and the undervaluing of care
  • Support the development of healthy personal relationships

The funded projects also meet the wider goals of the Fawcett Society and Spirit of 2012:

  • Demonstrate that the activity will contribute to social cohesion, bringing diverse groups together to engage in their communities
  • Challenge perceptions of disability, through the project activity itself or through ensuring inclusion of disabled people in the project activity
  • Improve the wellbeing of participants and volunteers involved in the project
  • Have a celebratory aspect in the run up to the 2018 centenary of women getting the vote.

Applications were open to a range of organisations including charities, Community Interest Companies and Social Enterprises, and from partnerships or coalitions. The funded activity will be completed by March 2018.

16 Days Of Activism

 

The 16 Days of Activism

The 16 days of activism to end violence against women and girls fall between the 25th of November and the 10th of December.

This year, the theme is ‘Orange the World’, to raise money for organisations working to support women and girls, and to challenge violence against them.

Often, themes tie in with human rights issues and how they impact on women.

The 16 days of activism have been marked since 1991 in at least 187 countries around the world.

Organisations, groups and individuals try to mark the period with events and awareness-raising on relevant issues.

The two dates – the beginning and end of the 16 days – both have particular significance.

Why the 25th of November?

The 25th of November is International Day Against Violence Against Women. This was first marked in Latin America to commemorate the violent assassination of the Mirabal sisters on that date in 1960 by the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic.

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This is a photograph of the sisters by Alvaro Diaz y Adony Flores – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52247329

The sisters were forced to attend a party held by the dictator, and when he made unwelcome advances towards Minerva, she refused him and later slapped him, when he did not take no for an answer. She fled the party with her sisters. Her father was soon imprisoned and mistreated to the extent that he died soon after being released. Minerva and her mother were imprisoned in a hotel and told they could only leave if Minerva slept with the dictator. Luckily, they managed to escape. A law student, Minerva found herself banned from classes until she made a public speech praising Trujillo. Once she graduated, she was denied her license to practise law.

The president also turned his attention to the rest of the family – they were spied on and persecuted. This had the effect of turning them into revolutionaries. The sisters’ code name became ‘Las Mariposas’ – the butterflies. They struggled against the regime, distributing pamphlets and joining with others to overthrow the dictator. They were imprisoned but there was international outcry and they were released. When their husbands were imprisoned, the sisters were trapped in the mountains on their journey to visit them. They were murdered and this horrific act galvanised the Dominican people to fight and ultimately to overthrow the dictator.

Why the 10th of December?

December 10th is International Human Rights day.

Usually, the theme of the 16 days is closely tied in with human rights.

Violence Against Women Violates Human Rights’, ‘Bringing Women’s Human Rights Home’, ‘Demand Human Rights in the Home and the World’, ‘Building a Culture of Respect for Human Rights’, and ‘From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women!’ are some of the themes in previous years.

While many organisations campaign to release political prisoners, or to end oppressive regimes, it can be harder to find voices focussing on infringements of human rights taking place in the home: in the private sphere.

Abuse happening to women and girls ‘behind closed doors’ used to be looked on as a private matter for a husband or a father.

The 16 days of activism has played a huge part in challenging this dangerous belief.

Women’s abusers can keep them prisoner unjustly, restrict their right to associate with whom they wish, physically harm and even kill them. These and other clear human rights violations should be taken extremely seriously.

It can be hard for women to find justice when there are no witnesses, but we can all clearly stand up and say that human rights violations are always wrong, and that personal relationships do not change this.

Dates in between 25th November and 10th December:

November 29th is International Women’s Human Rights Defenders Day.

December the 1st is World Aids Day, and it’s important to recognise the ways that women living with HIV and AIDS are affected by the virus.

The 6th of December is an incredibly important date for those of us who fight for women’s rights. It Is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada. This is the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, when a man named Marc Lepine armed himself with a rifle and a knife, and killed 28 people, 14 of them women. He said he was ‘fighting feminism’ and seemed to view the women studying engineering as ‘a bunch of feminists’, simply for studying for a degree in a male-dominated profession.

His suicide note blamed feminists for ruining his life.

Due to the explicitly political and anti-women motives of the killing, women’s groups make an effort to commemorate the date.

Marc Lepine’s actions shocked a generally peaceful nation.

While resistance to women’s liberation is not always so brutal, it does exist wherever women fight for our rights, and it’s so important we support one another at home and around the world.

 

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Plaque at École Polytechnique commemorating victims of the massacre

What Amina does during the 16 days

As an organisation working to empower Muslim women, we raise awareness of our work in the community, and with national organisations. We ensure the voices of Muslim women are heard, as there are still barriers to Muslim women seeking help if they experience violence.

Amina staff attend and host events where we work together to end violence against women.

We also remind everyone of our You Can Change This campaign.

We get involved in activities like Reclaim The Night.

This is a march where the streets are reclaimed in the hours of darkness, and sexual violence is condemned publicly.

 

 

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This year, we are co-facilitating an event with the Dundee International Women’s Festival  so that local women from Muslim and BME backgrounds can learn more about violence against women.

Wherever you are, I urge you to get involved – you can change this!

Liberty is for all, not just those who feel safe at night

liberty-is-for-all-2The Reclaim the Night march has been defined as “marches, which protested the right of all women to have the freedom to go where they wanted without having to restrict their movements to accommodate the threat of sexual violence”.

 

The movement originated in the 1970s. Peter Sutcliffe was murdering women and this led to women in Leeds being told by police to stay home during the hours of darkness.

The suggestion that women should stay indoors to protect themselves, rather than control the behaviours of dangerous men enraged women and feminist groups throughout the country. Women were expected to limit themselves in public space and hide from men, as it was believed that if they were to go out at night, then they were making themselves vulnerable to attack.

 

Reclaim the Night is an important and fundamental part of modern Feminism. It is a movement which gives women a chance to voice their opinions and fears, whilst also showing the rest of society that there are problems and there is continuous fight to resolve them.

 

The first Reclaim the Night-style march is said to have taken place in Scotland in October 1977, and then the first that bore the name took place in Leeds, later that year.

 

The issues surrounding gender equality that existed in the 1970s still exist today, and it seems that society still has failings when it comes to progressive attitudes and behaviours surrounding the lives of women. In any other criminal case, the perpetrator is the one who is immediately blamed, not victim; however in cases of rape and sexual assault the victim is always expected to carry the burden of blame. A study conducted by the Scottish Government in 2007 found that 32% of participants agreed that if a woman is intoxicated or out alone at night, she must take partial blame for her attack. Reclaim the Night sends the message that this is not okay; violent men are the issue, not women exercising their right of free will and liberty. Violent men should be challenged, not women who are simply trying to have a safe and free existence. Liberty is for all, not just those who feel safe at night.

 

“Today we march, as so many women have done before us to say that we are never to blame for rape and male violence. Those men who choose to commit these crimes are to blame. We march today to demand our right to live without the fear or reality of rape and male violence, we demand an end to male violence against women, we take back this night to win the day”– London Feminist Network

This an abridged piece taken from an article written by Becca Sweeney, an Amina MWRC volunteer. The full article can be read here: liberty-is-for-all

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