SHAFAQNA -Â Acknowledging their efforts to empower Muslim women in Scotland, a group of women councilors have been nominated to receive the Scottish Health Award for their work to help vulnerable women.
â€œThey provide a religiously sensitive delivery of counseling services for Muslim women who are facing difficulties and struggling to cope,â€ an unnamed woman, who nominated the councilors for the volunteers award, who struggles with mental health problems, told Daily Record on Saturday, August 1.
â€œThey listened and provided a trusting environment for my problems and concerns, and made me feel valued as an individual.â€
The woman was talking about volunteer councilors at the Muslim Womanâ€™s Resource Centre in Glasgow, “Amina,” which addresses problems faced by Muslim women.
Founded about 13-years ago, the resource centre aimed at reaching out to Muslim women who were not taking up public sector and voluntary sector services.
â€œThey didnâ€™t know what was around or how to take up Âservices,â€ Centre director Smina Akhtar said.
â€œIn hospitals, there wasnâ€™t the recognition that halal meat should be provided and when things were provided, they were quite low quality.
â€œIt was about making sure when services were provided, when they were making policies and designing services for the public that Muslims were taken into account and their cultural and faith needs were taken into account.
â€œIt was also about sending Muslim women a message that we are here to support them,” Akhtar added.
The program also helps Muslims to learn what was available at schools, giving them confidence to join Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs).
Citing discrimination and lack of opportunity faced by Muslim women in the workplace, Amina aims to help women who are under-represented in employment.
Speaking about the role of five volunteers who see most of the clients, Akhtar said: â€œThey deal with problems from mental health, depression, all kinds of relationship issues and marital problems.
â€œWe sometimes get men coming in with their Âpartners as well.â€
Promoting inclusion, the resource centre also had a Christian volunteer. â€œShe was so good. It is about having an understanding of faith and how important it is to people rather than just dismissing it,â€ the director said about the former volunteer.
However, the director stressed that understanding of faith, Islam in particular, is vital.
â€œIf a woman is suffering from depression and used to pray five times a day but [now] feels she cannot at all, a generic counselor may leave it to one side,â€ Akhtar said.
But a Muslim counselor will see that as really important to that [particular] woman. Practicing Muslims live their [lives] through their religion. If a counselor is able to understand that, they are more able to support them.â€
Scotland has about 75,000 Muslims. About 40 percent of them live in Glasgow.
Muslims are the second largest religious group in the country, which has around thirty mosques.
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