Upward, Young Women on the Rise

Upward, Young Women on the Rise are a group of young women of colour who we recruited to take part in a programme that provides insight into violence against women and girls issues as well as equipping them with the tools to advocate for themselves and find their voice to speak about their lived experiences. The programme has included site visits to Scottish Parliament and Rape Crisis Scotland, as well as sessions with Glasgow Women’s Aid, Police Scotland and in house sessions around menstrual health and mental health. The group have been enthusiastic and open about how much insight they have gained in these areas, referring to the menstrual health and Parliament sessions being their favourites.

“It’s opened my eyes to so many issues impacting our community and how different services support them.”  (a participant of the Upward Programme)

The menstrual health session involved Dr Sahirah Daar, a GP with an interest in alternative therapies and Iffet Rafeeq, an educator in sexology and womb wellness in Islam. Dr Daar explored a more medical outlook on menstrual health, educating the group in areas in which they lacked knowledge and Iffet explored women’s health in a way they hadn’t been able to access before; both opening up a conversation the group hadn’t had access to previously. This session was cited as being one of the group’s favourite as they learned a lot. During the session it was mentioned that mainstream education on women’s health is so sparce and so having this session as our starting point set the tone for the remainder of the programme, giving the group a space to be heard and learn in areas they have never had a chance to before.

The Parliament visit included the group being in conversation with Christina McKelvie, Kaukab Stewart, Humza Yousaf and Anas Sarwar, with each of them discussing their journey into politics and some, as politicians of colour, expanding on how being BME has impacted and influenced their work. As a result of this session, we arranged for one of the participants to undertake a placement with Kaukab Stewart’s office as she was keen to learn more about research in politics.

Throughout the programme, one of the participants used her voice to write an article for Pass The Mic around young people’s mental health services and the impact of exam results day on this. One of the sessions in the programme specifically looked at mental health with emphasis on self-esteem by a social media influencer/researcher, Zahra Faqir, who frequently works with BBC The Social raising awareness and opening up conversations around mental health for people of colour. The participants spoke of how relatable Zahra was, being another woman of colour speaking of her own experiences.

Through checking in with all the participants, we’ve seen how much they all want to continue their journey with Amina and the Upward group, which we hope to carry on with future sessions and repeat the programme next year.

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