A french volunteer at GWL : the first two months of this adventure

Hello, I am Laura, a french newly graduated volunteer at Glasgow Women’s Library for four months.

As two months already have passed (too) quickly, I wanted to make some kind of assessment of the previous weeks, to express how much GWL have already brought to me personally. If I have to be honest, it is also some way to set on paper all those wonderful feelings I have been experiencing since my arrival, so I can read them again in a few months, even years, and get emotional again.

When I first applied at GWL, I was actually looking for an internship, but now, I am so glad that GWL offered me a four months volunteering during this autumn program. Back then, I was still a human’s rights student, looking for a way to get closer to my true dedication in those studies: women’s empowerment.

As an (obsessed) book lover, finding a place like Glasgow Women’s Library seemed to be like the perfect opportunity to bring together the two matters that were so close to my heart. The fact that this place was in Scotland was just the perfect opportunity to succeed in my plan to become an adopted Scot.

Today, I have to say that, if I expected a kind and friendly environment where I could learn about women’s history, culture and arts, I can say that my expectations were actually so low, according to what I am experiencing today. I couldn’t have imagined such a brilliant, loving and trusting environment.

It is with some kind of emotion that I look at GWL’s values writing this post, and realise how those could not express more what I have learned since the beginning of my volunteering.

  • Empowerment

My self confidence has increased SO MUCH that I am half relief to realise that it hadn’t been a legend, that I still had it in me. Empowering women is not only a goal, it is a way of life, and an environment that GWL will provide to anyone coming here, even if it is just for a cup of tea or a wee look at our wonderful building and book collections. GWL is teaching me this way of life, and I could not be more thankful that I am right now about it.

  • Addressing Inequalities

I was very much aware of the inequalities we are facing, as women. I am aware of them in the world, really familiar to those we are facing in France, but I can say that I am learning everyday about the inequalities in Scotland and in Women’s history. Working on the beautiful project ‘Equality in progress’, I am discovering more and more how women’s condition has changed, and unfortunately how sometimes it hasn’t changed. I feel lucky to talk about it everyday with different people working in GWL, sharing our experiences, our point of views and our anger.

  • Valuing all women

I assimilate this value with tolerance, every time I think about how all women are wonderful. I am working with different women in GWL. All are different, all have different stories that I don’t know about, but I know that all of those women are incredible women. I already believed that your history, your religion, your colour, your age, your sexual orientation do not define you, but GWL is actually a place that summarise those kind of thoughts. As a member of the GWL family, you feel it every day, in every step of your work. And as a women, you understand it from the events that this Library is hosting, organising, promoting. Every day seems like a new opportunity to express how all women are welcomed here, how we will never look at them other than incredible persons.

  • Learning and Development

The thing I might repeat the most here, to my friends/colleagues distress, is that ‘everyday, I learn a lot of new things’. Which is so true. First of all, I learn a lot about Scottish society, Scotland’s history regarding women, suffragette’s history, and Glasgow’s history. I obviously learn English, wee bit of Scottish special languages (learning Gaelic still remains a dream – a far from realisable dream) and most important, human histories. I discover new people everyday, either those women are volunteers, workers or simply visitors. Each women has an history to share, and I love to hear about it.

As for development, I am working on the digital book group of GWL with Hannah since I arrived here, and the book lover in me is really excited about it. I love how GWL try and succeed in including all women in their projects. With the digital book group, Scottish women are connected together, no matter where they are leaving. They can come around a book and express their opinions, discover new people just as we are while being at GWL. I love how I can be a part of the development of GWL all around Scotland, for a lot of different women.

  • Diversity and Inclusivity

I can honestly say that I never experienced a more diverse space than GWL. As a former human rights student, the respect of those rights is a huge part of my everyday life, even more now since my adventure at GWL has begun. You can actually feel even more than you can see the diversity of GWL, and you can feel how much this kind of value is the essence of this place. I feel incredibly lucky to be a witness to this way of thinking and working. Obviously, no human is the same, fortunately, and working with so many different people, talking to them and learning from them, will definitely be the most memorable part of my volunteering. I love the person I am becoming more and more everyday because of all those different but still incredible women whom I cross the road here.

  • Openness and Respect

Even though every values of GWL are on the same levels, the openness and respect are yet the values that I experience the most for two months. Your opinions are respected, your values are respected, your way of life is respected, your religion or your non religion are respected, YOU are respected. I really believe that in the feminism I recognise myself into, respect is one of the main key to equality. And, again, GWL makes me experience it everyday. As for the openness, GWL feels to me like the heart of openness. I truly believe that respect and openness are dependant of each other, and, every time as I put a feet in this incredible building, I realise that this is incredibly true.

I feel like those two months were actually two weeks, and I am already scared to see the end coming, even if I know that I still have some time left before Christmas. Even though  we can already see Christmas decorations EVERYWHERE when Halloween is not done yet. But still, I am already incredibly grateful to be a witness of the work that GWL is doing everyday, and I am even more grateful to know the women who are preserving this special and unique place.

Oh, and for the moment, I can say that what we hear about Scottish weather in France is a legend. No, it is not actually raining every minute of every day. BUT yes, you actually have three seasons in a day. And yes, it seems that Scottish people are actually the nicest people on the planet. Let see my final review in two month though…

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