International Women's Day 2016


There could not be a better day to celebrate women's successes and achievements than on International Women's Day. 

Refugee Women’s Strategy Group (RWSG) takes this day to celebrate our stars, the refugee and asylum seeking women who have emerged as roses out of thorny bushes.

We are a group of refugee and asylum seeking women, supported by Scottish Refugee Council and funded by Comic Relief, whose aim is to ensure that the voices of refugee women in Scotland are heard. We raise awareness of the struggles women face and engage policy makers to make changes for the benefit of the wider community.

Women come to the UK from various parts of the world in pursuit of safety hoping to find a refuge from oppression and war. But when they arrive in the UK, which they envisage as a safe haven, they are surprised to find themselves in a tough and gruelling system.

Being disbelieved and refused protection, sometimes even in the most obvious circumstances, traumatises them even more. Some face destitution, homelessness and some grapple with isolation and mental health problems arising out of traumatic experiences in their countries of origin or while in the UK. In addition, most women in the asylum system live with the constant fear of detention or deportation.

Refugee and asylum seeking women face discrimination from a system that does not always recognise their specific needs as women. RWSG calls for a more gender sensitive policy. The Home Office has clear legal responsibilities under the UK Equality Act and its public equality duties to ensure that its systems and processes are gender sensitive and appropriate to meet the needs of women. While acknowledging the Home Office has a gender policy in place, we would like to see it being put in practice more often to alleviate the double discrimination that women face.

Despite all their struggles, refugee and asylum seeking women have to juggle many roles because life has to go on. 

Despite all their struggles, refugee and asylum seeking women have to juggle many roles because life has to go on. They could be mothers, wives, friends, students, volunteers or community leaders. Where they get the strength to go on might never be known, but one thing is certain: these women never seem to falter despite facing the difficulties of the asylum and refugee system.

Because they believe in a brighter future, they do all they can within their power to fight to improve the system for women: they lobby policy makers, raise awareness, and carry out advocacy work with various agencies. And they wear a smile, even in the toughest times.

On International Women’s Day, it’s important to celebrate these unsung heroines who have put their own lives on hold. Some refugee women have become professionals, entrepreneurs, obtained further education, and are great role models. 

Many of the women in the asylum system have useful qualifications. If allowed to use their talent, knowledge and experience they can benefit their communities while enjoying greater independence and keeping their skills up to date.

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