Finding a place of learning and support for women when moving to Dundee was important to Maqsoodan. She wanted to show her daughters that women have an important place in society and should encourage each other to grow and develop.
Moving to Dundee
I was born in Pakistan. My family migrated to Glasgow when I was about 3 years old.
I grew up in Glasgow and stayed there until I got married, 30 years ago. I moved to Dundee because my husband was based here. I like living in Dundee and the Asian community here is very strong. There was also a big Asian community in Glasgow, a close-knit one, but we did not live as part of the community – we lived on the outskirts of the city.
My parents were married for over sixty years. I have three brothers and I am the only girl in the family. It was hard growing up with three boys, I would have liked a sister, but we were very close siblings, maybe less close now because they all live in Glasgow. We all have our own families, with our own children and responsibilities.
Freedom to choose
My parents never enforced religion on me and my siblings. They let us choose what we wanted in our life. They were religious and they had strong morals but they did not force that on us. I was always a Muslim by birth, but now I choose to be a Muslim. I didn’t always wear a hijab, I only started wearing it about ten years ago. We started the Qur’an class in my house, a group of us got together with a teacher to study the Qur’an word to word in Urdu.
I got married at the age of 27. Nowadays, girls are studying or working but in the Asian community, 27 was considered a late age to get married. I did not want to get married at an early age – I wanted to find the right person. Now I have 3 children, 2 daughters and a son.
When I left high school I did a diploma in teaching. I am the first in my family to go on to further education. I wanted to go to University and study Geography, but that would have required residential trips which I do not think my parents were keen on. Maybe I should have pushed harder but I was intimidated by four-year degree. Instead, I spent three years at college.
After graduation, I got a job as a full-time primary teacher at the age of 20 in Glasgow. None of my children have followed me into teaching but all 3 of them have been through higher education.
Finding a place of learning and support
I started coming to DIWC when it was on Lyon street. My oldest daughter was only 12 years old at the time. I wanted my girls to have a strong identity, I wanted them to feel empowered and have the opportunity to discover themselves. I wanted them to be interested in politics, current affairs and global issues in the wider world.
I found the girls group in DIWC was great. A lot of mums felt very comfortable with the centre and the staff. It was great having the Muslim community being involved in this group. Through that, I think my girls have progressed well in their lives. They have been involved in residential trips, hill walking, fundraising, art projects – to name but a few. Being involved in the girls group has given them confidence. Both my daughters said it helped them in university with presentations and public speaking. They both served on the board at DIWC before going on to other things.
A chance to give something back
I have been volunteering at the centre for the last 14 years. Volunteering has been very rewarding for me as I get a lot of satisfaction by giving back to the community.
I used to volunteer in the Bazorg group; the group for older women. I volunteered with this group because my mother became a member but she was not keen to stay at the group meetings on her own. It was a brilliant experience! They are such a laugh and I have great memories of my time there. Auntie Narinder, who sadly passed away recently is to this day one of my role models. My own mother passed away four years ago so I am now volunteering in another capacity with the beginners English class.
I think in today’s world, full of conflict, women would rather solve problems by other means because we want a peaceful future for our children. Our children are our legacy and we need to empower each other for a great future for them. I think DIWC is unique that it allows us women to learn, support and encourage each other. People come here from all over the world and this organisation is willing to help anyone.
I hope the centre keeps going from strength to strength and is here for future generations. I believe that learning is a never-ending process and a day not spent learning is a wasted day. And what better way to learn than in an environment that is a melting pot of world cultures and beliefs.
Maqsoodan Arshid #womenofdundee