Meet the shadows

Celina Mbwiria

I recognised an opportunity to explore how politics works at the grassroot level and I also saw a chance for me to raise awareness about issues that affect me and other people like me.

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I am a medical doctor with qualifications from an African country and as such, I have experienced great difficulties in trying to establish my career in Scotland. Being a lone parent, with two children to care for and very little money to do it with, has contributed to the barriers I have faced in this respect. However, I have strived to enhance my situation by getting involved in a variety of initiatives aimed at improving my employability potential. Such initiatives have included participation in a postgraduate programme from which I graduated with an MSc degree in Health Promotion and Health Education from the University of Edinburgh.

While looking around for what to do next to enhance my situation, I came across information promoting the ‘Getting Your Voices Heard (GYVH)’ project, a year long programme supported by the City of Edinburgh Council and facilitated through the Centre for Human Ecology. The project brought together representatives from statutory agencies (Police, NHS, City of Ediburgh Council), ethnic minority voluntary sector and ordinary members of BME communities. The aim was to explore ways of encouraging BME communities to become actively involved in issues around the communities they lived in order to influence decisions that are made about them. In this, I saw a chance for me to articulate the difficulties I was experiencing and needless to say I applied and was accepted into the programme.

Because of my background, I am acutely aware of the existing ineqaulities in health across different sectors of Scottish society. For instance, it is well known that BME communities experience higher levels of disadvantage and marginalisation. What is not effectively recognised however, is the great diversity that exists within the BME communities and that some communities are barely visible to services planning and delivery. From such knowledge and coming from one of the most marginalised communities, I have developed an interest in understanding the political processes, in how government policies are generated and policies translated into services planning and deliverly.

While I was participating in the GYVH programme, I was informed about the ‘Opening Doors’ project. I recognised an opportunity to explore how politics works at the grassroot level and I also saw a chance for me to raise awareness about issues that affect me and other people like me. I applied and was accepted into the programme. The councillor I was asigned to was a very good choice as I found him to be full of energy, very knowledgeable about local issues, articulate and very easy to talk to. Since then my mentor and I have attended a meeting hosted by ‘Greener Leith’ about a community garden at the Leith Links which I found interesting and the next point of call was the city chambers as described here.

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