Karibu’s annual general meeting (agm) was as busy and productive as any gathering of African women could be.
The organisation was set up almost ten years ago to bring together women in Scotland who came from Africa so that their combined energy and talents would help them integrate and make them stronger and self-sufficient.
The agm was held in the Pearce Institute in Govan.
Among the many items on the programme were the launch of a Karibu tartan; a fashion show of clothes made by the Karibu Sewing Project; notice of an upcoming launch for Karibu Scotland’s African Tartan and Textiles book as well as Scottish Government Equalities Section speaker Mukami McCrum. This being Black History Month, there were celebrations to mark it. And, of course, there was sumptious food, glorious food as only Women of Africa can prepare.
The charity is planning to re-open the cafe in the Pearce Institute in collaboration with Tea in the Pot, a local women’s support group which has been at the Pearce for several years.
Laurentine Zibi, Chair of Karibu (Welcome in Swahali) said afterwards she was ‘proud and pleased’ that the charity had overcome various challenges this past year.
‘To see between 100 and 150 people here today is emotional for me.’ The group has moved offices from Albion Street to Gorbals’ Adelphi Centre and now to the Pearce Institute in Govan.
‘We didn’t have enough funding to carry on in the Gorbals,’ said Laurentine. A full time worker post was reduced to part-time and then was lost in April when funding finished.
But with the support of Oxfam, the volunteer work of the Karibu Sewing Project gathered in strength. ‘We hope to move this into a social enterprise soon,’ added Laurentine. Their exclusive Karibu African tartan – devised with the expertise of tartan expert David McGill – can be purchased in Byres Road Oxfam shop.
Karibu founder, Henriette Koubakouenda, declared at the end of the day she felt ‘comforted’ that the organisation was making progress. ‘To see people taking over is good. Even if I die, Karibu will continue. The fact that the next generation shares the same vision as we who founded Karibu – is worth more than a million pounds to me. This annual general meeting has been a real joy for me.’
Henriette arrived in Glasgow with her two young sons as refugees from the Congo. Along with other women she soon discovered their needs and wishes didn’t fit in with the system. ‘About 15 or 20 women gathered in my flat in Sighthill on 31 August 2003 to work out how we could organise ourselves. We needed to keep our self-respect and were willing to work hard but our voices were not being heard by the service providers. It was difficult for us because each woman was isolated and very few had fluent English. I knew that, individually, we would not be heard but together we could be strong and be the voice for our problems.’ Among the issues they had personal experience of that didn’t fit the official categories were human trafficking and genital mutilation.
‘It’s good to see politics is alive and can generate a good stooshie,’ commented Dr Katherine Trebeck of Oxfam after the Sunny Govan Radio’s hustings on Tuesday 26 April. Oxfam is a supporter of the 24 hour radio station which beams out across the whole of Glasgow and beyond.
Held in Kinning Park Church and chaired by media director Martin Paterson of Paterson Communications, the Southside Constituency contenders of Nicola Sturgeon (SNP), Stephen Curran (Labour), Kenneth Elder (Lib Dem) and David Meikle (Conservative) had a sparky interchange and the audience took no prisoners either!
The biggest audience applause was during the question on the future of shipbuilding in Govan and Scotstoun when the questioner – Iain McInnes a community campaigner said: ‘We should be building ships for peace not war. Ferries for around the coast and sea-going structures for renewables is what we should be building.’
Nicola Sturgeon said she was proud of the local shipbuilders in what was her constituency before recent boundary changes.. ‘We should be 100% behind Govan and Scotstoun yards,’ she said. ‘Anyone who suggests they only got the work because they are a part of the UK, is doing them a great dis-service. It is because of their skills and their willingness to change and be flexible that they got the orders.’
David Meikle in making a point that the companies should be securing new contracts in new markets as defence cuts took effect, was rounded on by Nicola who said it was ‘Tory cheek’ to suggest that, when Conservatives had been responsible for massive cutting of defence jobs.
Stephen Curran wanted to see the River Clyde better used. ‘It has great potential. The only reason Govan yard is still open is because we are part of the UK. In an independent Scotland, shipbuilding would disappear. It is absurd for the SNP to suggest otherwise.’
Lib Dem candidate Kenneth Elder said technology and future generations had to be considered. ‘We should be thinking of extending the industry not neglecting the River Clyde. There are not enough craft on the river which is a common good asset. We need a longer vision for the Clyde,’ he added.
Audience concerns covered – travel expenses for job seekers attending interviews in the city; regeneration and the plight of pensioners in flats who want Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) to renovate their lifts, not install new ones. On that issue, the panel was unanimous that GHA had to listen to what the pensioners wanted. ‘I’ll be on the phone to GHA in the morning,’ said Nicola.
When the effect of cuts at the St Mungo centre for disabled people was aired, Stephen said: ‘People don’t listen enough or trust enough. We are all in this together and we need to learn to trust each other.’
The spectre of people trafficking increasing during the Commonwealth Games was raised. ‘We’ve got to recognise this happens and talk about it,’ commented Kenneth. ‘We can find out what London does for the 2012 Olympics and learn lessons from and co-ordinate with international agencies across Europe.’
In a bit of banter, Nicola said she liked Midge Ure’s music: ‘I supported him in the 1980s so I’m giving my age away!’ Ure’s concert was a free one on the night of the hustings and aimed at young folk. Labour accused the SNP of a serious breach of election laws. Commented David:’ I don’t know who Midge Ure is! I suppose that shows my age!’
Post Office closures, regeneration, mental health, human rights and Go Ape and Pollok Park were all subjects tossed around by the candidates with dexterity.
Heading up Oxfam’s Poverty Programme for Scotland, Dr Trebeck said she was delighted with the evening.
A team of first year media students from Cardonald College filmed the event. ‘We want the experience,’ said Amy Hamlan (18). ‘I’m looking for good shots,’ said Dan Lowrie (26). ‘We’ll be giving Sunny Govan good feedback,’ added Jordan McClymont (22). All aim to be directors or writer directors in tv.
Tom Harris has been a Labour MP for nine years, initially in Glasgow Cathcart then in the new Glasgow South constituency.
He has a comfortable majority of 10,832 and was a junior transport minister between 2006 and 2008. Married and living in his constituency, Tom has embraced new media and is a prolific blogger.
He finds MPs’ expenses and immigration are key issues. ‘On expenses, I was cleared at the early stages of the Legg Inquiry and I wasn’t asked to repay any money. I employ my wife. That looks likely to change. I’m not very happy and my wife is even less happy.
‘Immigration is coming up more and more. I have a very strong view that people have a right to express their concerns about immigration without the risk of being called a racist.’
Asked about the ‘cabs for hire’ MPs who were touting their Westminster connections, he said: ‘Where do you start? I thought we would reach a point where we could start re-building people’s trust in politics and government, and then this nonsense happens. It is tremendously depressing.’
Malcolm Fleming is the SNP candidate for Glasgow South. He works in communications for Oxfam, and lives in Shawlands.
Involved with the SNP from 16, Malcolm, now 35, supports the Power 2010 campaign to reform Parliament and protect civil liberties. ‘The group visited Shawlands, and the public clearly support it.
‘Spending cuts are a major concern for people bringing closure of local facilities such as Castlemilk Stress Centre. It had its funding cut at very short notice. It is really bad practice, they had no chance to seek funding elsewhere. With more cuts in the pipeline from London, having more SNP MPs in Westminster would put pressure on the Government to stop cuts. Our basic message is more Nats; less cuts.’
He added: ‘There is an alternative to more of the same from Labour and more of the same from the Tories - a strong group of SNP MPs in the House of Commons who would support the Scottish Parliament and support what’s best for Scotland.’
Marie Campbell is the Green Party candidate for Glasgow South. She has worked for Patrick Harvie for three years and steps into the front line because she believes her party can show ways ‘to do things better.’ She told the LOCAL NEWS GLASGOW: ‘Government should be supporting local business and enterprise rather than propping up failed banks. We need to reduce energy consumption and should focus on renewable energy sources. I’m out to do the best I can and to start conversations with people because masses of people are looking for change.’
Other candidates for Glasgow South are Davina Rankin – Conservative, Shabnum Mustapha – Lib Dem, Brian Smith – STUSC.