Many Voices: In conversation with Meriem Timizar
“Many Voices” was our 18-month project aiming to provide new platforms for voices that are often excluded from the public conversation.
To celebrate the success of the project, we are sharing stories from the individuals who took part in project and made it reality. Today we sit down with Meriem Timizar, Chair of International Women’s Group Glasgow North.
‘I have always wanted to do something to support other migrant women. There are many issues that especially refugee women often struggle with, such as isolation, stigma, and language barriers.
‘In 2011, I came across International Women’s Group – a community group run by women for women, aiming to empower asylum seekers, refugees, and other migrants to break barriers and to better integrate into community in which they live and work. First I was elected to be on the board, and for the past couple of years I have been responsible for coordinating all our activities. We organise Zumba lessons and jewellery making classes, and also celebrate many Scottish holidays to introduce them to our group. For Burns Night, we cooked Haggis, so people could try it for the first time.
‘I had previously been involved in some writing projects through Scottish PEN and the Scottish Refugee Council. However, taking part in Marjorie’s workshops was the first time I tried poetry – to be honest I never thought I’d be a person to write a poem. But I ended up loving it!
‘The best thing about the project was to write together with the whole group. We started with a blank paper and talked, put down our thoughts line by line…and then an hour later realised we had written a poem. Everyone was happy to be able to share their experiences, and we helped each other with tricky words.
‘Marjorie was just amazing, and we all want to continue writing with her. She brought in images and objects that helped us to start writing and led to some very interesting conversations about home, journeys and belonging – themes that are a big part of our lives.
‘The poem I liked working on the most was ‘All week I’ve lived’ after Tom Pow’s ‘Journey’. We all just shared things we find hard in our everyday life, and then things we always look forward to. I learned so much about the other women in my group! I wrote down how much I hate mopping the floor.
‘Writing together was also a good way to get past language barriers. Some of the women in the group don’t speak much English, but they were able to still use choose and use the objects or images they wanted to be included in the poem. Marjorie encouraged us to also use our first language when writing; in some of the poems I used both English and Arabic, bringing my two languages together.
‘Reading our collective poems at the final event was a great experience. Some of us were very nervous beforehand, especially those who had never performed in front of an audience. But afterwards everyone was beaming, telling me how they never thought they could do this. But they did.’
All week I’ve lived
– after Tom Pow’s “Journey”
with the same routine: bus journeys,
walking for fitness, running, train trips
and by car (sometimes only half way).
All week I’ve cared for others: dressing
children, washing them, cooking
their favourite foods, taking them
to the school gates and saying
goodbye. All week I hand wash
the clothes, wringing the water
with my bare hands, mopping
the floor – properly – hoovering,
despite provoking my allergies,
but I always resist washing
the dishes. All week I look forward
to baking: basobsa, baklava, charak,
mchawak, macaroon, napoleon,
my favourite petit fours. All week I wait
for the zumba dancing, meet others
for coffee – friends, grown sons
and daughters, sometimes even
my husband. All week I go shopping
out of obligation – food from Tesco,
the things we need, not often
the shopping I like. (When I feel stressed,
I go to ASDA to relax.) All week I play
with my children, help them study,
and read with them. All week I wait
to meet my women’s group,
where we laugh. All week I wait
for my baby to sleep so that there
is time for myself, time to sit
with my husband. All week I live.
You can read more of the group’s collective poems here.
Photo credit: Chris Scott