The ‘Unity Sister Mental Health Project’ provided our members with mental health support through a series of events. These created a space for our members to talk about any issues with mental health and experiences of discrimination or abuse through informal counselling. The events also strengthened social networks through group discussions which helped alleviate the mental health struggles our members experience. This project sought to maintain and nurture the special relationships made within Unity Sisters, relationships which, especially throughout the pandemic, have proved vital help to some of our members in food supplies or childcare. This will allow us to once again provide a space for discussion of mental health issues or other concerns, something that has been a pillar of Unity Sisters since its formation.
We aim to provide a space where issues, concerns and questions can be comfortably raised. Informal counselling and discussion are going to form the base of this support.
30/09/2021 – 28/02/2022
Women, Refugees and Asylum Seekers
Spreading good practice
Since the start of Unity Sister’s in 2014, problems with mental health have been a reoccurring issue reported by our members. Unity Sisters offers support to those in a unique experience, one often shaped by both xenophobia and sexism, both resulting in their own possible impact on a woman’s mental health.
The COVID-19 Pandemic has both exposed and worsened existing inequalities in our society, with those in uncertain living conditions and those struggling financially being disproportionately hit by the effects of lockdowns.
Refugees and asylum seekers often live in uncertain conditions with pre-existing trauma to process, both of which made some’s experience of COVID-19 especially difficult. Additionally, lockdowns fostered an increased sense of loneliness and isolation.
Life in the asylum process is very difficult, sometimes having to live on £5 per person per day – which often means themselves and their children having to go without necessities.
We also have women who are destitute asylum seekers, and they rely on others to provide food and for all their basic needs. This group suffers extreme levels of stress and depression – and meeting with the wider group is a really important source of help and comfort to them.
We have women who have been through the asylum process and have Leave to Remain and one who has British Citizenship. These women provide an important source of hope for the other women in the group – and their continued involvement in Unity Sisters is crucial as it guarantees continuity of learning and provides some organisational stability.
Involvement of New Scots in project
Unity Sisters is self-organised community group run by and for asylum seeking and refugee women in Glasgow. Due to this, every decision is made by our members. This makes our group unique.
Our members (asylum seekers and refugees) share their experiences of discrimination and hate crime in Scotland and other struggles they face every day. They decided to invite the speakers and organisations with experiences and expertise on these issues to provide information and guidance on how to deal with these situations.
All activities were run as planned but we had to undertake a couple of sessions on ‘Herbal Medicine’ and some yoga exercises requested by participants. The participants learned how to use food as medicine to improve their wellbeing- “We are what we eat.” Through the yoga exercise, participants learnt how to breathe in and out to help the body to relax. They learnt other mechanisms to use for easing stress. Also, we ran online sessions to facilitate New Scots to share their stories and struggles.
We (New Scots women) learnt to speak up and stand up for women’s rights. Also we formed the wise women group which supports other women to get knowledge through the resources provided. These women translate these resources into different languages and also they translate for other women during the meetings.
The pandemic has posed some challenges with regard to attendance, with some members having to skip sessions due to caring duties or feeling unwell themselves.
Unity Sisters learnt that Knowledge is power. Sisters will continue to learn about their rights and how to fully exercise it. Sisters will keep building up their confidence and capacity through peer support. Sisters would recommend other organisations to involve New Scots in decision making so their voices can be heard.
Many New Scots women were able to attend our every week sessions because the project was run online and the time suitable for women.
Making the project accessible by providing top up was vital for New Scots women. Normally the cost of childcare is a big issue to Unity Sisters, but because the project was online, New Scots women participated easily with their children around them.
We produced and distributed the leaflets and posters for how to decrease loneliness and isolation among New Scots.
We produced and distributed the leaflets “Making Sisters Agents of Change” which would be used by other organizations working with new Scots. Sisters were invited to speak about peer support and two ways of integration strategy which will help New Scots to fully integrate into the community in Caledonia University, Social worker classes. Sisters will continue to spread this good practice into different communities.