Refugee women talk power, choice and belonging

Refugee women celebrate receiving their ESOL certificates

International Women’s Day took place yesterday, drawing global attention to the perennial issue of gender equality and how far away from realisation it remains in most countries of the world.

The Refugee Women’s Strategy Group in Scotland recently discussed the origins of the day, which aims to press demands for equality as well as providing inspiration and great examples of achievement by women, often against the odds. They wrote the following:

“Tomorrow, on Tuesday 10 March, we will stand with women from across the UK to deliver #ProtectionGap postcards to Baroness Helena Kennedy [patron of Scottish Refugee Council] at the Houses of Parliament.

Women suffer more than men from their experiences of the asylum system, which does not offer us the protection we need. We suffer more from poor asylum accommodation and being forced to share a home with complete strangers. We are also more vulnerable to exploitation if forced into destitution.

One of our members, Vuyelwa, explains: ‘I did not know anything about International Women’s Day until I came to Scotland. It means a lot to me and makes me think of the work that we in the Refugee Women’s Strategy Group do to bring women together to discuss and tackle the big issues that affect refugee and asylum-seeking women in Scotland – issues such as the lack of gender sensitivity in the asylum system, barriers to employment and poor housing.  International Women’s Day gives the opportunity to show how good, beautiful and important women are.’

International Women’s Day is a big day for women. It’s about power. It is important to know that we are free, we can do our own thing, use our brains and stand for ourselves. It’s a day to inspire each other to achieve our full potential in all aspects of our lives.

Women need to be able to do whatever they want. Many women don’t have rights or choices in their country: it’s about power. Many women are not free to express themselves and to go out, they have to stay at home and look after children. Women need freedom in their own houses.

We need to encourage and support women to take leadership roles and to make things happen, we need to ensure equality for women. We need to value all women whether they are at home or in the workplace or education.

We need to continue to work together to challenge the discriminations and persecutions that we experience and to promote a strong sense of belonging across all aspects of our lives.

We want to tell women ‘continue to do what you are doing, be strong, speak out and work together, think of your future’.”

Blog written by members of Refugee Women’s Strategy Group: Vuyelwa, Christie, Mhurai, Zina and Wadzanayi.

Find out more about the work of Refugee Women’s Strategy Group.

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