Glasgow & West Scotland

Refugee women 'speak up' at Glasgow conference

Female refugees who have fled from more than 15 countries will speak out about their experiences at an event taking place in Glasgow over the weekend.

The Speak for Yourself conference has been organised by the Refugee Women's Strategy Group.

The Glasgow-based organisation campaigns for a more effective asylum system for women in the UK.

The women-only gathering includes discussions, workshops, music, food and a fashion show of traditional dress.

The strategy group works to make sure refugee women's voices are heard and is supported by the Scottish Refugee Council and funded by Comic Relief.

The group has met refugee and asylum seeking women across Scotland and asked them for their views on the key issues that affect their lives.

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."

Women's community development worker at the 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."

She said the Refugee Women's Strategy Group helped "raise their voice" and spoke up on behalf of all refugee and asylum seeking women.

She added: "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."

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