By the time you hit 4th year it’s easy to see the mass of charitable balls and fundraising events as going through the motions, throwing money at a multitude of issues we don’t fully understand. Yet as we reach into the new semester, raising awareness alongside donations is once again coming to the fore. I spoke to Emily Miller, co-founder of the Amina Society, about their endeavours to overcome this detachment with their fledgling society.
So what exactly is Amina?
Amina is the Muslim Women’s Resource Centre with centres in Edinburgh, Dundee and Glasgow. They are an incredible organisation that aims to overcome socio-economic barriers that Muslim women experience in Scotland.
That sounds like a great responsibility. How do the centers go about achieving this aim?
It provides a safe space for Muslim women and other women of ethnic minority, offering a helpline, employability work, refugee support and counselling. The obstacles that these women face is seriously underestimated, many have been victims of hate crimes, or are refugees struggling with a sense of cultural displacement. The centres provide a support network, instrumental for many of the women when integrating into there new lives. Offering services as simple as a helpline in Arabic, or translating films, easing the transition into their new home. It also helps raise awareness of issues such as violence against women in projects engaged with a wider public audience in Scotland.
What was it that drew you to this organisation?
I went to a film screening organised with Anima by Ellie Fields, one of the co-founders of the Amina society in St. Andrews. I had just returned from volunteering in Calais. After seeing the treatment that refugees experience, the violence directed at them, it was a cause close to my heart. When I came across Anima, I saw their work with refugees as a way to continue this support.
The Society is still in its infancy, launching this year, what role does it play in the Amina organisation?
The Society is a student lead organisation, that acts as a representative of Amina here in St. Andrews. It was started this year by Ellie Fields, Oscar Hodgson and myself. We run affordable Arabic classes, panel discussions and film screenings, in an effort to raise awareness around the University.
You mentioned that you got involved in Anima through a film screening, why do you think films are such an effective method of raising awareness?
The film screenings are an accessible way into a topic that many may find difficult to approach. There will be topical discussion preceding each film, regarding the themes that will be addressed. These introductions provide greater insight into the Amina’s work in Scotland. It’s an interactive and fun approach that we have found works well.
Do you have any plans for future film screenings?
We plan to hold film screenings monthly this semester, starting with ‘Wadjda’ on Tuesday. This week’s film is directed by Saudi Arabia’s first female film-maker Haifaa Al Mansour, and documents the life of girls and women in Saudi Arabia and challenges the limitations placed on women there. Preceding this, there will be a talk given by Sara Mchaffie and Undram Munkhbat who work for Amina in Dundee.
Why do you think it is important to raise awareness of these issues in such a small town such as St. Andrews?
St Andrew’s is often described as a bubble, it is for this very reason that these issues need to be talked about. In this environment it is easy to be detached from the social injustices in the world. We have a responsibility as students from a leading institute to understand these issues if we are to take an effective place in society when we finally leave our cocoon.
‘Wadjda’ will be screened this Tuesday in School II, St Salvators Quad, at 6pm