Ms Mushaka, Fieldwork Development Officer with Poverty Alliance, Glasgow
I was born in Uganda, married in Zimbabwe and came to the UK in 2001. Back in Africa I worked at senior levels as a community development worker and as a consultant for disability and development NGOs. For over 10 years I worked on highlighting the plight of people living with disabilities in Uganda. I am now a naturalised British citizen, and have been working with Poverty Alliance for more than five years as a Fieldwork Development Officer.
When I first came to Scotland, I was not allowed to work, but chose to engage in volunteer work with a range of organisations including Glasgow Women’s Library, Scottish Refugee Council, Integrating Toryglen Community, Karibu Scotland, and Oxfam. In the process I gained a lot of experience in engaging service providers and policy makers in the Scottish and UK Parliaments. Once you’ve recovered from whatever made you leave your country, you want to be part of the new country you live in.
I had worked all my life, I really didn’t want to stay at home, that’s not me at all. However, I was stuck in the asylum process for seven years before I was allowed to work due to the government’s policy of not allowing asylum seekers to work, a policy which still stands today. It was not easy to find full time employment having been out of the labour market for seven years. As a single mother, child care was one of the initial challenges. I was able to overcome these through the support I received from Bridges Programmes Equipped for the Future training course.
I work with community groups raising awareness about poverty issues and social exclusion, making sure that people are aware of government policies that may have an impact on their lives. I also work with service providers around user involvement in projects.
Scottish people are very generous, friendly and welcoming. However, our main obstacle to belonging is the negative coverage of migration in parts of the media, which feeds on the stereotypes. Challenging media portrayal of migrants has to be an on-going part of our work. I would like to support a political system that acknowledges the contribution I’m making to this country because I’m a citizen. And I want to feel and behave like a citizen of this country, including exercising my right to vote. I am still not sure that everybody who sees me on the street think I’m Scottish, let alone British? Many still label me as a migrant, as a refugee, as an asylum seeker, or sometimes even as an overstayer from Africa. That’s what many see. They don’t see a human being, a woman with skills, qualifications, and experience to contribute like anybody else. So gaining a real sense of belonging is another journey that we still have to work on.
Interview by: Migrant Voice Photo by: Karen Gordon