African Women Group Aberdeen - Submission
Tell us about your experience of getting involved in decision-making processes that affect your local community or community of interest.
African Women hardly get involved in the local decision-making process because there is very little contact with the service providers or policymakers. This is so because we do not know where, when, what and how the decision is made. Many individuals in our community cannot decipher between policies and decision that are local or national and who makes them.
There is hardly engagement with African community or, between African women and decision-makers. Therefore, we do not know how they arrive at such decisions. We have no voices or input in many of these decisions or policies that affect us. It is difficult for individual African women to pop into their local community centres and contribute to any consultation.
It is our view that in the future extra resources and effort be made to contact African women and create a space for us to have our voices heard in the decision-making process. Without participation, it is difficult to know if their voices would have made a difference. There is a need for a conscious effort to involve us. This is important because our experiences and worldview may be reflected in the decision process. It is also important because their worldview does influence their attitude and decisions.
Would you like your local community or community of interest to have more control over some decisions? If yes what sorts of issues would those decisions cover?
The issues we would like to have more say include children welfare and regulation. Africans have culture and worldview that influence their decisions on many aspects of their lives such as discrimination, health care and domestic violence. Often decisions are made on the above issues that affect us but without our input in the process, our perspectives are rarely acknowledged or included. As previously stated we have very little input in this area at the local level.
Another area we would like to be consulted is on religious belief. The lives of most Africans revolve around religion and belief. These influence our relationship with children, homes, and in the discipline and training of our children. Often this is not taking into consideration in decision-making affecting our family and children.
There are very few African families that are involved in the fostering of African children. It will be good to create awareness on how Africans can become foster parents or why they are not fostering. There should be a deliberate effort to encourage Africans to foster. We don’t think anyone has had a serious conversation with Africans in this area.
Another issue is health care delivery within the African community. Apart from GP services African women use less of other health services. We notice that our voice is rarely heard in the decision on health services to our community, our fears, ignorance and issues. We rarely know when or how the following issues are being raised in our community lifestyle, mental health, men’s health and awareness. We don’t know how much thought is given to our world view and culture on health care. Many Africans are getting older but there is hardly any engagement with them on the type of care for their elderly in this age group in order to provide appropriate and acceptable services for them. Whatever the current policies are we are not sure and we do not seem to have had any input in them.
Many in our community have financial difficulties in their families which are not known to local decision-makers things such as poverty, stress and mental health problem due to the extra cost of their immigration cases. When an individual has to pay for their immigration papers and pay extra for their health insurance with no money left after all expenses. Therefore some families live in poverty, some are too ashamed or afraid to ask for help. There should be a discussion on this, the effect on the family and children at the local level.
When thinking about decision making local could mean a large town, a village, or a neighbourhood. What does local mean to you and your community?
It means all of the above plus African community or ethnic group, disability or special interest such as environmental group or people with a particular needs or marginalised.
1. Are there existing forms of local-level decision-making which could play a part in exercising new local powers?
We think that there may be some existing forms of local-level decision-making which could play a part in exercising new local powers but we are not aware of them, we don’t know what the existing forms are so it is difficult to tell if they can play a part in new local powers.
2. Are there new forms of local decision making that could work well?
Again we are not aware of the current form local decision- making and therefore can’t tell if they will work well or not.
3. What kinds of changes might be needed for this to work in practice?
Our response shows that the current forms of decision-making process do not include everyone especially our community or African women. Probably the decision-making forum should endeavour to include more groups especially the marginalised groups such as ours to bring our perspective into the decision-making process at the local level. More effort should be made to identify groups and to understand the reasons for non-participation or obstacles that prevent us from participating in our new environment. There is a need for our voices and issues to be brought to the table in the decision-making process. Some of the reasons for our lack of input in the process is because we don’t know where the groups meet or how to reach them. We are of the view that if we live in Scotland or Aberdeen, we have a voice to contribute as a community and expect to be heard. We shouldn’t just be a consumer of other people decisions without our input. We want to be part of the decision that affects us. We can be found in all community, in faith groups, on the streets at workplaces.
Do you have any other comments ideas or questions? Is there more you want to know?
We think some minority groups are not engaging in this decision-making process and neither do they know or understand process or policies.
Often, Africans feel detach from the process because there is the perception that our opinion or issues really do not matter or will not make a difference. There is a perceived sense of unfairness in the whole process e.g. Africans will like religious activities in schools, but this is not done, and faith is important to them in their daily lives. Our community often lack the expertise to explain some policies. We also face the challenge of accepting policies we do not understand. More effort should be put into involving our community into the local decision-making process, this lack of participation makes us feel as if we are visitors and not residence.
Africans are well qualified with higher degrees both men and women but can’t seem to get equivalent jobs. Where we have jobs, we do not seem to progress in our career. As a community we have raised these issues but no one seems to be engaging with us to identify the problems and seek solution to the same Also, we would appreciate a discussion around business within the African communities and the challenges we face as well as other areas of the community such as the media and various professional sectors.
African Women’s Group Scotland