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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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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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