Moments of Freedom: New Scots women in Clydebank on their Refugee Festival event

The Moments of Freedom group is made of up New Scots women who arrived into Clydebank through the Syrian Resettlement Programme. Several of them arrived on the same day – 24 November, 2015. On Wednesday 26 June, they are holding a free Women’s Wellbeing Event as part of Refugee Festival Scotland, at the Clydebank Town Hall. In this article, they explain the reasons for holding it.

WE LEFT our country because of the war. We came seeking a safer future for our children. We didn’t know anything about Scotland when we arrived.

The first barrier we encountered was language. We are all studying English through our ESOL classes and are getting more confident each day, but it was very difficult when we first arrived. People didn’t know who we were, or why we had suddenly arrived in their community. 

We all live close together, meaning we could support each other. We’ve become like sisters and it means a lot knowing we have a new family here in Scotland.  But we wanted to do more, to connect to the new community which we live in.

We met with Outside The Box [community development charity] to talk about how we could do this, and find ways to move forward with our lives. We wanted to share our culture with others but also learn more about the culture here. We also wanted an opportunity to practice our English in a meaningful way.

We set up a group, Moments of Freedom, as a way to make a contribution to our community. We are all busy women with lots of family responsibilities. We named our group after those precious moments that we have to ourselves. Freedom is such an important idea for us. To us, freedom means being free from restrictions, but also respecting the freedom of others.

We wanted to hold community gatherings to try and break down barriers. The gatherings have been good, but it can be hard to maintain those relationships afterwards. It is still a struggle to meet other people. Many of our neighbours have been so warm and friendly, but others don’t say hello when we see them in the street.

When we started to organise these events and meet with other women in the area, we realised there was a need to have more local events that were safe spaces for women to come together.

Women hold everything together and keep everyone safe, but to do this, it’s important to look after ourselves as well. We are always busy with children and family, housework, shopping, learning, college. That’s why we need spaces just for us. It’s only when our children are asleep or at school that we get any time for ourselves.

We really enjoy the opportunity to connect with other groups and volunteer. We do this purely for ourselves and we feel good about that. It feels nice to be with other women, it’s fun and we feel powerful. This is why we decided, for Refugee Festival Scotland, to hold a woman-only wellbeing event.

It will be a safe, welcoming space for women to express themselves through different activities such as belly dancing, yoga and the cultural exchange of ideas through arts and food. Jennifer T. Doherty, author of new book, Glasgow’s Welcome which celebrates the warm welcome given to new arrivals will be there. We’re going to create recipe cards with dishes from Syria to share with local women from the community, to help build connections through food. There will be also be a ‘chill-out’ space where we will be creating a ‘botanical mural’ celebrating wellbeing themes of growth and renewal. 

It is a free event and open on a drop-in basis from 11am – 1.30pm on Wednesday 26 June at Clydebank Town Hall.

Moments of Freedom is a project that is led by New Scots women in Clydebank, in partnership with Outside the Box and West Dunbartonshire Council. Find out more.

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