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Women Warriors in Dumbarton

Publication: Clydesider

There is a small room in Dumbarton’s Leven Valley Campus which once a week plays host to a group of female fighters.

Women Warriors Photo | By Katie Kelly for The Clydesder
Women Warriors Photo | By Katie Kelly for The Clydesder

The women range in age from early twenties to seventies and at first glance might appear an unlikely tribe.

But spend a short time with them and the bonds of comradery, trust and friendship are clear to see.

Each of the group face their own daily struggles with the pressures life throws at so many women.

But on a Friday morning over a cuppa and a slice of toast they make time and space to breathe and be there for each other.

Volunteer facilitator Fiona Upton explained how it all began: “I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in December 2020 and told I’d never be able to work full time again.

“During the pandemic Janice O’Connor from the Corra Foundation contacted me to see if I would be up for starting a women’s group as she knew there were a lot of women struggling to cope with the extra pressures of the lockdowns.”

Following conversations with local women to identify what they wanted the group started meeting regularly from March 2022.

It was to be a space for the women of Dumbarton West.

Fiona added: “Corra supported us in the beginning, we use their room for free; financially they gave us grants for activities from our first day.

“It started with me and the two Monicas, and we’ve just grown from there.”

Working together


Now with 10 regular members the group have tried their hand at a range of well-being activities and holistic therapies; they’ve organised days out and residentials for themselves and their families and earlier this year became constituted and opened their own bank account.

At the start they were supported by Janice, a project worker for the Corra Foundation who also lives and is based in Castlehill.

Fiona said: “I knew Janice from studying my Community Education degree back in 2014, I was on placement with the Council and had the privilege to work alongside her.

“It was enlightening for me, Janice is an amazing person.

“She has built my confidence up, believed in me, given me the emotional strength to do the role of facilitator for the group. She cares and is passionate about her role too.

“As a facilitator I went from quite low confidence to being immensely proud of what we have achieved together.”

Some members shared how the Empowering Women group is changing their lives.

Angie said: “I feel as if I am taking more time for myself as I have been struggling with Mum-guilt.

“Through coming here I’m starting to realise I need to take time for me and not feel guilty – the group helped me do it.

“This is two hours a week for myself.”

All the group agree they prioritise this precious time together wherever possible.

Monica explained: “Sometimes you can be feeling really down and then you come in here and what was an issue doesn’t seem so bad when you’ve got the rest of the group to talk to.”


Earlier in the year the women organised their first residential to Carbeth, staying in a hut owned by local youth charity Y-Sort It.

The group agreed it was a wonderful way to get to know each other.

Fiona said: “We had a barbeque, the ladies had a kids-free night, had a few drinks, a fire pit and shared some really personal stuff together.

“For me it was rewarding, interesting, and valuable, I didn’t really know many of the women when I started the group, still didn’t until the night away.

“It was transformative as it was then I realised I have tons in common with them. Now we are more an extended family rather than just a group.”

And they enjoyed it so much they returned for the September weekend, this time with their kids.

“It was very busy the first night, like a big sleepover, but lots of fun.

“There was the freedom of having fun with the kids, not worrying if they are safe.

“Sitting round the fire pit, kids and ladies sharing marshmallows, making s’mores, making memories, was just priceless.”

For older member Margaret the group has been a real lifeline.

“I was really ill early in the year; my organs failed and I was housebound. I had been so independent and active before but being stuck in the house I was getting into a right depression.

“Coming here has been a lifesaver for me; they even made sure I got to Carbeth.

“You can come in here feeling down and go out feeling brilliant.”


For some this group has been the first step to becoming more active in their community.

Margaret is now a leading light in the local Sewing Group while several of the women are part of the local Social Change Action Group.

And in September the Empowering Women group was successful with their first funding application to the National Lottery Community Fund which will help them continue their well-being and creative activities in 2024.

They are also making plans for a return to Carbeth in the Spring and a kids’ summer camp.

Fiona summed up why the group is so important to her: “I am immensely proud of our women’s group, we are like an extended family.

“When I hear some of their laughter, it’s comedy gold and when I’ve had a rough day they cheer me up.

“They also look out for each other; the bond is incredibly strong.

“To be part of something like this is incredible, but knowing I helped to create it gives me the best feeling inside.”

To find out more about the Empowering Women group email: