GUEST BLOG: Women's Support Project - Rights & Choices

30 November 2020
A women walking in the park. Her childing are playing further up the path.

The Women’s Support Project is based in Glasgow and works across Scotland to raise awareness of violence against women, and to support improved services for those affected.

Our Glasgow based ‘Rights & Choices’ service supports migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking women who are socially isolated and / or have experienced violence or abuse.  According to a report from Refugee Council, women seeking asylum are more likely to have experienced gender-based violence because of their past experiences of persecution and conflict.

We have had an exceptionally busy year: as with everyone else it has not turned out as we envisaged in our workplan!  We amended our service to respond to needs during the pandemic, addressing food and fuel poverty, digital poverty, and increased isolation and loneliness during lockdown and ongoing restrictions. We provided support around domestic abuse, child contact and health impacts of gender-based violence, including Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). 

Life has undoubtedly been harder for everyone this year, and the pandemic ‘shone a light’ on inequality in our country, but here we want to highlight positive developments, the positive impact of peer support, and the skills and resilience of women.

Our dedicated volunteers provide befriending and informal language support, and support women e.g. delivering food shopping, accompanying to Health appointments, helping with school registrations. Volunteers also helped to disseminate Government guidance on restrictions, co-vid health advice and information on where to get help if experiencing violence or abuse, including some materials in translation.

We were able to start online groups in June, providing data top-ups to ensure equal access. The weekly sessions focus on mutual support, coping skills and resilience and provide information on women’s rights and services available. Women shared tips for coping with lockdown and children being off school and set challenges for each other around healthy eating and exercise.

"Thank you so much for the session.  it was really great to reflect and look beyond the bad. It felt like everyone was giving me all the strength and comfort and support. I love it this group so much I couldn’t wait for next week."

Our ’Speaking Up’ courses aim to build confidence so that women are better placed to engage in community activities, volunteering, or learning, or just to feel more confident about speaking to their GP or their child’s teacher. We all feel most confident when speaking about the things we know well, so groups initially focus on shared stories from women’s home country and culture. Women enjoy the teaching, such as breathing techniques, body language and how to prepare, as well as learning from each other. 

Follow-on courses further develop skills, with a focus on contributing to discussions or at meetings.  Women talked about the importance of being heard:

“If you feel worried and you are heard, then you feel relief”

“It means you have caught their interest.  They understand you”

Also, how they want to use new skills:

“To talk to others about women’s rights and freedom.  I am very interested in that”

“To speak to my children’s teacher”

We are all looking forward to the time when we can meet face-to-face, but in the meantime, we have a busy programme of online courses planned for over the winter and spring. If you would like to know more about the work of Rights & Choices please contact sabina@womenssupportproject.org.uk