The Interpreter speaks to Ellie, Emily and Oscar from Amina, a recently established charity in St Andrews about the work they’ll be doing this year.
Okay, so tell us about the charity.
Emily: Amina is the Scotland-wide Muslim women’s resource centre which is based in Glasgow and has offices in Dundee and Edinburgh. They provide support and help Muslim, multi-ethnic women overcome socio-economic barriers, offers services such as a helpline…
Ellie: … there’s also a number of projects that they do: for example, we have the Violence Against Women project, and they’ve developed a play which has been travelling around Scotland to focus on Muslim women’s voices across the country.
Is this for women new to the country?
Ellie: It’s all different, for people who have lived here but also there’s been a recent drive for refugees who have come over so that’s a big group that they’re addressing at the moment.
Emily: There’s also do a lot of counselling and integration work. They have a lot of Arabic speakers as well which help for these kind of projects.
What brought the charity to St Andrews?
Ellie: We discovered it the first time in St Andrews through a panel discussion about feminism and Islam and there was a representative from Amina on the panel so we got in touch with her about volunteering after the discussion about volunteering. really the organisation runs off volunteers so that’s how we ourselves initially got involved was through volunteering through in Dundee. But then because everyone obviously has a lot of commitments in the university we thought it would be nice to have something in St Andrews where people could still get involved without having to go to Dundee or Edinburgh.
Oscar: The girl who organised everything last year, Gloria asked me to come along to the meetings because I was asking how I could get involved and how I could volunteer in Dundee and then unfortunately found out that men aren’t actually allowed – which is fair enough! – so then we decided to establish a society here in St Andrews.
So what can we do from here?
Emily: In the university we’re going to focus on raising awareness about the charity and letting people know how to get involved, especially for sub honours students who might have more time availability to go and volunteer.
Oscar: The main aim is to spread awareness of the problems caused by the refugee crisis and obviously also Brexit which creates problems for people arriving in the UK, alongside fundraising.
What are the charity’s plan’s for the academic year?
Emily: We want to organise monthly film screenings: we just watched Wadjda and the next film we want to watch is Caramel, a Lebanese film. Both Wadjda and Caramel deals with the theme of women’s empowerment, as does caramel, which brings lots of women together from different backgrounds and showing their commonalities rather than their differences. We’ll be screening that next month.
Oscar: as well as the film screenings we’re hoping to do some panel discussions with some lecturers from Edinburgh University.
So the aim on the university front is really just raising awareness rather than money?
Oscar: Yes, we’re hoping to raise some money through donations at the panel discussions but principally we just want to get word out. We’re also organising Arabic classes which we’ll be doing every Monday in the Union, just an informal beginners Arabic classes in one of the society rooms upstairs for anyone who’s interested and wants to learn Arabic to come along.
How can I get involved in Amina right now as a student?
Ellie: So we’re going to start our official meetings in week 3. We have a Facebook page so we’ll be publicising on there. We should be holding our meetings on Thursdays from 5-5.30. because we’re still a new society there’s lots of opportunities to get involved straight away with how it will be formed which is pretty exciting. the current committee are all graduating this year so it’s important for us to lay the foundations for the future committee members to get involved and take it forward.
Oscar: We’re not a traditional society in the sense that we don’t have a hierarchy of established committee roles, it’s more an open space for anyone who wants to get involved.
Emily: if people want to actually want to volunteer in Dundee we can also help organise that for them and put them in touch with the right people.
Can anyone volunteer?
Ellie: Absolutely! Arabic speakers are great because they can get involved with the helpline and be trained for the befriending projects but they have volunteers to help with everything; for example, last Sunday I went ice skating with a group of women in Dundee which was so much fun. However, the only restriction is that volunteers do have to be women as the charity functions as a safe space for women. They’re very flexible so help can be anything from regular to one off.
Want to get involved? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org