Refugee women speak out for a fairer asylum system

Refugee women from more than fifteen countries will gather in Glasgow this weekend to share and celebrate their stories of rebuilding their lives in Scotland.

The event is part of the Refugee Women’s Strategy Group’s ‘Speak for Yourself’ conference. The women-only gathering includes discussions, workshops, music, food and a fashion show of traditional dress from around the world.

The Refugee Women’s Strategy Group is a group of refugee and asylum seeking women in Glasgow who work together to make sure refugee women’s voices are heard throughout Scotland.

The group, supported by Scottish Refugee Council and funded by Comic Relief, uses their personal experiences of seeking asylum in Scotland to campaign for a fairer, more effective asylum system for all refugee women in the UK.

As part of the ‘Speak for Yourself’ conference, the group has been out and about across Scotland meeting refugee and asylum seeking women and asking them for their views on the key issues that affect their lives.

Strategy Group member Patricia Nganga, a qualified paediatric nurse from Congo Brazzaville said: “I’ve been a member of the group for four years now and it is a very big part of my life. As well as the great friends I have made in the group, I have learned a lot from being a part of it.

“I have been to high level meetings with the Scottish Government to represent the views and experiences of refugee women in Scotland. Before I joined the group there was no way I could have spoken out in front of a group of people, certainly not at Parliament. It feels good to be listened to by decision makers and to know that my personal experience may lead to positive changes.”

Another group member, Lebo Mohlakoana from South Africa, said: “One of the great things about the group is that it made me realise that I am not alone. I learned that other women had been through the same difficulties as I had and this helped to keep me going when things were hard.

“For me, one of the highlights of being part of the group was meeting the Regional Director of the UK Border Agency. I got to tell her everything I wanted to face-to-face. If I hadn’t joined the group I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet people in positions of power and with the power to change the system.”

Women’s Community Development Worker at Scottish Refugee Council, Elaine Connelly, said: “Women seek asylum for different reasons from men, and the Home Office needs to understand these reasons better.

“Many women flee gender-based violence and persecution and as a result find it difficult to speak out about these experiences to Home Office caseworkers assessing their claims. As a consequence, women’s asylum applications are often rejected due to a lack of evidence.

“For over five years, the Refugee Women’s Strategy Group here at Scottish Refugee Council have been raising their voices and speaking up on behalf of all refugee and asylum seeking women.

“This week’s conference is all about allowing refugee women in Scotland to have their voices heard, as well as celebrating the many personal stories of tirelessly working to build new, hopeful lives here in Scotland.”

Last year 15 members of the Refugee Women’s Strategy Group took part in 33 high level meetings with decision makers and service providers across Scotland. As well as discussing refugee women’s issues in the Scottish Parliament, the group has given evidence at Westminster committees, met with the UK Government, the Home Office and submitted evidence to the United Nations Committee examining the UK Government’s performance under its convention to eliminate discrimination against women [CEDAW].


For more information contact Pauline Diamond or Karin Goodwin on 0141 223 7927/07850 930418 or email

Notes to editors

  1. Refugee Women’s Strategy Group is a group of refugee and asylum seeking women supported by SRC and funded by Comic Relief. The aim is to ensure that the voices of refugee women in Scotland are heard. The group works together to represent the views of refugee and asylum seeking women to key decision makers and service providers in order to make positive changes for refugee and asylum seeking women in Scotland. 
  2. ‘Speak for Yourself’ will take place on Saturday, 9th November, 2013 from 9.30 am to 4 pm in Community Central Halls, Maryhill Road, Glasgow. To book a place or contact Elaine or Fiona on 0141 248 9799
    1. Scottish Refugee Council works to ensure that all refugees in Scotland are treated fairly, with dignity and that their human rights are respected. As an independent charity, we are here to provide essential information and advice to asylum seekers and refugees in Scotland. We also campaign for political change, raise awareness about issues that affect refugees; and we work closely with local communities and organisations.
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