I sit down to write this flag on International Women’s Day, celebrated throughout the world and by our Scottish Government, with the First Minister visiting her former School and Ayrshire College to meet girls and young women promoting ‘#thisayrshiregirlcan’.
Last week I was lucky enough to meet inspiring Scottish women at the 30th Birthday Celebration of the Scottish Refugee Council, held at Edinburgh Castle’s Great Hall with excellent contributions from Alex Neil, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners’ Rights, and a poetry reading from our retiring Makar, Liz Lochhead.
Liz beautifully spoke of her experience on a translation project A Bird is not a Stone which is a collection of poems by contemporary Palestinian poets translated in Scotland. Liz chose to read these poems in a room filled with people who support or who had been helped by the Scottish Refugee Council, including newly arrived Syrian refugees, all of whom thanked Scotland for their welcome. At the heart of our ancient history, I was very privileged to be there.
I was also delighted to meet two inspiring women who sit on the board of Maryhill Integration Network alongside Liz Lochhead. Amal Azzudin and Remzije Sherifi. I am somewhat humbled to have met a Glasgow Girl who inspired activism, theatre and film and is quite simply a remarkable young woman.
For thirty years the Scottish Refugee Council has provided vital advice and advocacy and has worked tirelessly to ensure that all refugees are treated fairly, with dignity and that their human rights are respected. It was wonderful to celebrate their efforts but I share our Makar’s concern that after 30 years the Council is still needed. We have come a long way but as always, there is much more work to be done.