Sawti

Sawti, meaning ‘my voice’ in Arabic, is a Mental Health Foundation project for refugees

Partners: See Me and Scottish Refugee Council

Quick fact: More than half (57%) of interviewees in a study of newly arrived asylum seeking women in Glasgow showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder [i]

This project aims to raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing of refugees using the arts, as well as developing a mentoring scheme among refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland. Sawti has been built on learning from the Amaan project where the eight-week Community Conversation approach was first piloted with women refugees and asylum seekers. Sawti is building on this by expanding the Community Conversation approach to include men and young people.

One of the women involved with Sawti shared her story with us.

Amani, volunteer with Sawti

“I came to the UK with my family from East Africa due to political unrest. My mother decided it was unsafe for us to live in our homeland and so we had to leave. This was a difficult and painful decision where everything we knew had to be left behind: our culture, our heritage, our family and friends. Starting our new life was not easy. There was a language barrier, the feeling of not belonging and the fear of not being accepted in society was always on your mind. I did not speak any word of English, I was home sick, missing home and fearing for the family we had left behind.”

Amani and her family settled in London where she attended school. One day their worst fears became a reality when they received a letter from the Home Office informing them that they were to vacate their home as they were being dispersed to Glasgow. They were allowed to pack two bags each and nothing more.

“We did not know where Glasgow was, what kind of place it would be or how the people of Glasgow were. The thought of moving made me sick. I felt my world had come to an end. The anger and sadness building inside of me was too much to bear. I realised I was an outsider and that I did not belong in this country despite the years I had lived here. I felt I was a part of this country but the government made me think otherwise. Adjusting to life in Glasgow was difficult as I found it hard to make changes in my life. I saw my health deteriorating. I did not want to do anything. I could not eat or sleep well. I did not want to be in anyone’s company and I did not want to go out. My mind was always thinking that worse is yet to happen.”

Amani found the strength to attend a local community group where she met other women and began to share her experiences. For a brief time she attended college where she achieved an HND. However due to her status that was the end of her education, she was not allowed to progress further and is not allowed to work. She now volunteers and continues to wait on a decision from the Home Office, almost 10 years after first arriving in the UK.

For more information, please contact:

Amal Azzudin (Equality and Human Rights Officer – Refugees)

aazzudin@mentalhealth.org.uk

[i] Zimmerman C. (2009) Asylum seeking women: violence and health, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Scottish Refugee Council. Retrieved from www.scottishrefugeecouncil.org.uk/assets/0000/0097/Asylum_seeking_women_violence_and_health.pdf