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Personal Stories from Dundee International Women’s Centre

Updated: Jul 29, 2023

In this special feature two members of Dundee International Women’s Centre (DIWC) share their stories with us.

Mariam Niakaté – DIWC member, volunteer and staff: 2007-present

Mariam Niakaté

I came from Mali, West Africa. I have a big family in West Africa – I have five sisters and one brother. It was good, I enjoyed it there. I enjoyed being with my family, I had a lot of freedom.

I moved to Scotland in January 2007 because my husband got a job here. When I first came here I was alone at home. I didn’t speak the language. My husband was going to work every day leaving me all alone at home. One day he was just speaking to one of his friends and he suggested: “There’s a centre around that area that your wife can go to everyday because a lot of people from everywhere go to this place to learn English.” So he came home and the next morning he took me to DIWC. The first time, to be honest, I was scared because I didn’t know anybody and I had no idea what they were saying, so the first day was kind of scary. But by the end of the day I felt relaxed because there was someone working there who spoke French.

I used to come to English beginners class, they used to do belly dancing class, I used to come to cooking class… I think I was here almost every day! And computing class.

I learnt a lot. First of all I learnt how to speak English, I learnt to be confident and independent because before coming to the Centre I wasn’t going out at all. But by coming to the Centre I knew people who were going to the town, and at the end of the class I would just walk with them and they would show me around.

One of the best memories was when I was doing my ECDL (European Computer Driving Licence) exam. One staff member held my 6-month old baby. She actually held my baby so that I can take my exam – that was amazing, I can never forget that.

There was a staff member here, her name was Dana. When I first came here, I remember she was showing me people and she said: “Mariam, see these people, they were like you, they didn’t know any English so one day you will be just like them.” And I used to say: “No, that’s never going to happen!” She helped me a lot going to college and everything else.

DIWC helped me be confident, and they helped me learn, and DIWC showed me the path to go into studying. Now I’m at college and that’s because of DIWC. I’m doing an admin and IT advanced course in college, and that’s because of DIWC. Even working – I am working at DIWC today.

I am proud of being a mum, working at the same time and studying at college.

Amina Zaveri – DIWC member since 2014

Amina Zaveri

Today I am 68 years old.

I was born in Zomba in Malawi. My dad was a businessman. My mum was a housewife. I came to the UK when I was 19 years old. I came to Scotland to have a better life. I wanted my children to have a good life in a good country.

I chose to come to DIWC because at the time, I couldn't speak English and I couldn't write either. I wanted to learn and improve so I could fit in and have a proper conversation with others. When I first came to DIWC I was so nervous because I didn't know English. I wasn't confident so I felt very intimidated. After coming I realised that I shouldn't have been nervous as the teachers were very friendly and I felt confident and I was able to learn.

I have attended so far, English for life and conversation classes as well as computing classes. I have been successful in computing and in English conversations. I have learnt that I can do anything I want if I put hard work into it. At the Women’s Centre, most are having the same problem as me, not having English as their first language, but together we tried our best and we have come very far. One of my best memories at DIWC is when I received a certificate recognising my hard work.

My dream for the future is to improve my spelling because even now I do still struggle but that doesn't ever put me down, I will never give up. My teacher has helped me so much and without her help I wouldn't have gotten far.

I want to be able to continue my studies at DIWC, and hopefully I might be able to help others who had the same struggles as me. DIWC will be able to help me become fully confident and happy, and will be able to help me communicate with others.

Covid has been a setback but the teachers at DIWC have been supporting me. I am very grateful to be at DIWC and I can say happily that you should never give up and always try your best and you will get ahead.


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