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“Where the world meets as neighbours” – Dundee International Women’s Centre

Updated: Jul 29, 2023

The original sign from DIWC’s Church Street home (photo by kind permission of DC Thomson & Co Ltd)

The Dundee International Women’s Centre (DIWC) project started in 1969. As part of an outreach urban aid programme in the Hilltown area, social worker Susan Early began to visit the families of overseas workers who had come to Dundee to work in the jute trade. Many migrant women were isolated with young children at home and needed support to integrate in the local community. As a result, a voluntary group of women got together and formed what would become DIWC. The aim of the project was to foster friendly relationships between women of different nationalities and religions. In 1970 the project was affiliated with the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) and employed Janet Foreman as its first paid worker.

Women gather outside DIWC’s Church Street home, 1970 (photo courtesy of DIWC)

The group was originally based within the Grey Lodge Settlement. In 1970, it moved to a small baby-linen shop at 9 Church Street and started regular activities: English tutoring, home visits, monthly bazaars and a mothers and toddlers group. In 1972, that part of Church Street was due for demolition. The Women’s Guild of the Church of Scotland undertook fundraising as part of its New Neighbour programme to allow the group to move to a two-bedroom flat at 49 Lyon Street where it stayed for 33 years. Women from all over the world attended DIWC social activities in the Lyon Street flat: cooking, sewing and singing classes, cultural celebrations and many day trips to discover Dundee and its surrounding. English home tutoring and later classes at the flat were also very popular.

Celebrating Chinese New Year in Lyon Street, 1993 (photo courtesy of DIWC)

At the end of the 1990s, DIWC was awarded a grant from the Scottish Office for Ethnic Minorities and was able to extend and develop further. Extensive research into the volunteering of ethnic minorities in urban areas marked the beginning of the 2000s. In 2004 DIWC separated from the YWCA and became an independent charity. Two years later, the charity moved to a new, purpose-built centre in Manhattan Business Park, Dundonald Street, where it is still based today. Many activities and new projects have taken place in the past two decades: ESOL classes (English for Speakers of Other Languages), youth work, an over-60s group, food and cultural festivals, employability classes, health and wellbeing activities, workshops to challenge gender inequality and raise awareness of violence against women, DIWC’s Rise & Shine childcare social enterprise and many more.

Since 1969, DIWC’s primary mission has remained unchanged: empowering women from all cultures, backgrounds and walks of life to achieve their goals, fulfil their potential and contribute to all aspects of society.

Written by DIWC staff

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DIWC’s 50th anniversary celebrations with its two oldest members, 2009 (photo courtesy of DIWC)

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