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Saunter & See - Doors Open Days Trip

In this post we introduce a new strand of the T&D programming Saunter & See: T&D group visits around Glasgow to various museums, galleries and cultural sites.


Separate to the main programme of workshops and training for our core group of T&D volunteers, the Saunter & See visits are more of a social occasion to learn about the cultural spaces Glasgow has to offer. These Saunter & See trips are also open to any other women who would like to come and join us! With the aim of igniting imaginations, enriching our days, tackling isolation, and engaging socially and culturally together, we want our women to feel at home and comfortable navigating these spaces, and we know it is easier to enter into a new place with friends.


Here, T&D team member Vera speaks about what we got up to for Doors Open Days on our first Saunter & See event, and group member Hagir recounts some of the conversations had at each venue.



For our first event we participated in the Glasgow Doors open Days, a “diverse programme of in-person and digital events, celebrating Glasgow, its heritage and its people”. We chose two places to tour, the City chambers which is in the very heart of Glasgow and is one of the city’s most important and prestigious buildings. And the second was an exhibition on Women in Law Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow.


We led a group of volunteers who are ethnic minority women from Glasgow to embark on this special journey to explore the heart of the city and this blog delves into their experience as they embarked on a unique tour of this iconic building and learning about fellow women who made great impact in the field of law.





Glasgow City

As you may already know Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland, and known for its rich history, stunning architecture, and diverse culture, and has always been a melting pot of different communities. Among its vibrant population, ethnic minority women and immigrants play a crucial role in shaping the city's cultural landscape. At our charity, Empower Women for Change, we make an effort to celebrate their contributions and foster a sense of community engagement and integration.

The Glasgow City Chambers: A Historic Landmark

Before we delve into the women's journey, let's take a moment to appreciate the significance of the Glasgow City Chambers. Situated on George Square, this magnificent Victorian building has served as the headquarters of Glasgow City Council since its inauguration in 1888. Designed by architect William Young, the City Chambers stands as a testament to Glasgow's architectural grandeur and its status as a city of historical importance.


Exploring the Halls of Power

The volunteers arrived at the Glasgow City Chambers with eager anticipation. Their tour commenced at the ground floor where many other tourists were looking round and making their way up. Some of the women were fascinated to see images on display boards from their own country in the city chambers, and Ume shared a little about the architecture and history of Lahore. They were fascinated by the magnificence of the building, the marble floor, mosaic, and the antique carpets. One of the T&D team members Romy provided some historical context about the building and its role in the city's governance as a product of the British Empire. She also showed the women Glasgow's coat of arms (the fish, the tree, and the bell) which was imprinted almost everywhere in the building.


As they ventured deeper into the chambers, they came across the council chamber where a tour guide took them through the relevance of that chamber, a place where the city’s councillors debate issues of Glasgow’s development. She also added that one could get in touch with their local councillor to come witness debates. I am sure this is something the women will be looking forward to.


Next we entered a chamber where many interesting stories of ancient Glasgow was narrated on the walls. Among these stories is one told of the founder of Glasgow St Mungo and how he saved a princess by praying for a fish to find a precious ring given to her by her Lord. Most of the women started narrating similar stories from their own countries. Hagir, talked about the Queens of Sudan and Egypt known as ‘Kandaka’ and their important role in shaping history.




Hagir:

I entered the great hall and felt the scent of history. I stood amazed and admired the colours of the wonderful paintings and what they contained and the stories the paintings told us. I felt the greatness of those that have gone before. I stepped into a sacred place that had the scent of history, greatness and belonging, and this phrase passed through my mind: “Great and distinguished people who shaped history and influenced life passed through here and breathed this same air”. I always saw the bell, the tree, the bird, and the fish, but I did not know their meaning, what each one of them symbolizes, and why they were chosen. But after we discussed at length and asked questions, I understood the interpretation, and I am happy because I participated in this day and followed my intuition. It was a beautiful day that connects the past with the present and the future.





We met many other tourists who were happy to take pictures of us and make our trip memorable. Before we exhibited the building we came to one of the famous statues in the building, the statue of Mandela the former president of South Africa and the fighter of Apartheid. All the women clamoured around this statue to take pictures. We were lucky enough to meet one of the workers in the city chambers who showed us a video of when he was a younger man and met Mandela when he visited Glasgow.


As we left the building the women discussed how some of them had never visited the city chambers before, and they never thought they would have the chance to enter such a grand building and learn about how the city is run. It was an eye-opening experience, and it made them feel more connected to Glasgow.


On the way to the Royal Faculty of Procurators we passed through George Square where a protest was happening. As we approached Mandela place where the Royal Faculty of Procurators was located, Romy took the opportunity to tell us more our Mandela and the relationship between Glasgow and South Africa. She told us about how Glasgow supported Mandela’s anti-apartheid and freedom fight even when he was in prison. He later visited Glasgow after he was released from prison and this place was named after him.







Women in law exhibition

Our next venue was the women in law exhibition hosted at the Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow. The exhibition served as a powerful platform to celebrate the achievements of women in the legal profession. For Glasgow's ethnic minority women, this visit was not just a trip to a museum; it was an opportunity to connect with their own history, feel represented, and be inspired to pursue their aspirations in the world of law.


One of the observations was that many of the ‘firsts’ were as recent as the 20th century. With the first woman who qualified to be a lawyer in Scotland, being Madge Easton Anderson, in 1920. Her journey was only successful because 20 years prior there was another woman, Margaret Howie Strang Hall, who wrote a petition to sit the law exams for the Society of Law Agents in 1900.


Although the exhibition also featured contemporary figures, including women from ethnic minority who have risen to prominent positions within the legal community, there were only a couple. This representation was a clear message that the legal profession though becoming inclusive and diverse, needs more opportunities to be created for ethnic minorities to be equally represented.





From the exhibition that was organised downstairs, we went upstairs to the law library to see old cases stashed away in an organised manner. The library indeed smelled like a noble place. However, the was a sharp contrast between the exhibition going on downstairs and the library space as all the statue of great legal practitioners were male. This observation made me appreciate the exhibition even the more, as there is the need to tell the herstory of women who have made great strides in the legal field in Glasgow, Scotland, and the UK, and later across the world.

Our volunteer Hagir was interested in the exhibition because she also comes from a law background. She studied environmental law in her country of origin and may consider pursuing it here as well.



Hagir:

In Nelson Mandela Square, I visited the Women and the Law exhibition. I love the law. The law is life, and without the law, nothing is organized or can continue. I studied law for three years at university, international law and the international court, criminal procedure law, personal status law, family and children, and commercial law. As well as corporate Law and law of the Sea. I had to choose between law sciences and forestry and environmental sciences. I chose forestry and environment in the final year. When I graduated and reached the specialization stage, I chose the field of politics, law, and environmental legislation, and among the most important agreements that are considered the three core International conventions on the environment signed at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992. The three basic agreements are the Convention to Combat Desertification, the Convention on the Conservation of Biodiversity and the Framework Convention on Climate Change.


Unfortunately I did not continue my practice because I got married and had a family and a child. However, I am interested in how the protocols between countries that resulted from the aforementioned agreements determine how to implement environmental law, legislation and administrative structure of environmental institutions.


As the group left the Women in Law Exhibition, they carried with them a sense of empowerment and a renewed belief in their own potential. They saw first-hand that barriers could be broken, stereotypes challenged, and dreams realized, regardless of their cultural backgrounds. All in all, the tour of these two places had a profound impact on the volunteers. Many of them expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to learn about the city's history and governance. And we all are looking forward to more of these outings.


Watch this space…



Feedback wall at the Women In Law Exhibition

If you would like to join in for a Saunter & See event, please email romy@ewfc.org.uk and we will let you know about upcoming trips.



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