International Women’s Day: Jen Ang on defending women’s rights at the grassroots

By 06/03/2020 Stories

Gesya Salih at the British Red Cross offices in Glasgow

Jen Ang, Director of JustRight Scotland admires the powerful and connecting work of a grassroots project coordinator supporting asylum-seeking and refugee mums in Glasgow.

 

I am a human rights lawyer and founding co-director of JustRight Scotland (JRS). At JRS, we use the law to defend and extend people’s rights. We build social justice collaborations, lawyers working with non-lawyers, to create a fairer and more equal Scotland. Since 2017, we have worked closely with British Red Cross in Scotland (BRC) through our Migrant Destitution Project. This trains and supervises frontline advocacy workers to gather evidence to build legal challenges in cases where asylum seekers and refugees are wrongly denied access to financial support from either the Home Office or local authorities.  We believe in this model, not only because it means more people access the support they deserve, but also we hope we are building an ever widening coalition – advocacy workers, volunteers, and service users – who feel empowered to use the language of the law to claim their legal rights.

One of the frontline advocates we work with is Gesya Salih who is project coordinator for the Mum’s Project. Gesya has a warmth and a presence that sits at the heart of the work of the British Red Cross Refugee Services offices in Glasgow. She has been a trusted colleague there for over a decade, managing a team of volunteers who provide emotional, practical and advocacy support to between 70-110 asylum seeking and refugee women every year, through the process of becoming mums to Scotland’s newest weans.

Gesya herself came to Scotland 15 years ago as an asylum seeker herself, and is the mother of two children, one of whom was born here during the five years she spent in the asylum system. She connects this experience with her belief that becoming a mum is one of the most important responsibilities we bear, and her belief that all mums should be able to access the support they need to help them succeed.

I admire Gesya not only because she is hugely effective, getting the best out of her volunteer team to provide care and necessities to our most vulnerable and least well supported new mums, but also because she does so with such warmth, care and humour, helping to make the best possible start, for our newest of New Scots.

You can read more about Gesya’s work in this British Red Cross blog, No money for milk: the new mums neglected by UK asylum system.

Author Jen Ang

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