This year’s student elections have kicked off and many have been wondering who to vote for. Often, most of the attention is given to the EUSA President and VP races; however, equally important are the Liberation Officers who will be in charge of looking after the wellbeing of our more vulnerable student populations. In this case, the Women’s Liberation Officer candidates who have thrown their hat in the ring. If you fall into this category and you are wondering who to vote for, The Student talked with Sophia Shuleva, Sharessa Naidoo, and Mukai Chigumba about their motivations and plans for the office.
(The Student reached out to all candidates running for Women’s Liberation Officer, but only Shuleva, Naidoo, and Chigumba responded to our request for comment.)
The first candidate running for Women’s Liberation Officer is Sophia Shuleva, a student in the Department of English. Shuleva believes that women in the university suffer from a lack of respect on the interpersonal level. “If a woman shows determination and strength,” she says, “it can seem as intimidating or crazy, and somehow she can often face a lot of backlash for it.”
Shuleva is determined to work with the other Liberation Officers and raise any issue she believes to be affecting the women of the University. “I am most excited about being able to speak with women about their experiences and organize events that empower us to stand up for ourselves.”
As for her qualifications, Shuleva believes that her stubbornness and open-mindedness will make her a good Women’s Liberation Officer. “I am determined to work hard for every single woman in this university.
For Sharessa Naidoo, a BME student from South Africa, the issue of white feminism is one close to her heart. When she moved to Edinburgh in her first year, she felt that many of the societies that claimed to cater to all women presented an only-white, only-UK perspective. “For women to be successful in their efforts to subvert all forms of sexism, we have to unite all females to collapse the divisions that sexism creates.”
As Women’s Liberation Officer, Naidoo wants to create a “Women’s Liberation Forum,” which would be a one-stop-shop for female students to find organisations that help them. “I want to see greater collaboration between women organisations so that we can break barriers that relate to women’s race, sexual orientation, economic status etc because discrimination is discrimination no matter the source.” Naidoo also wants to contact notable female alumni to ask for advice for all female students, as well as implement a mandatory sexism-awareness course for all first-years.
As a BlackED ambassador and Black Feminist Space Member, Naidoo believes that she has the experience necessary to navigate the inner workings of the university and to advocate for all women. “I want to maintain and give female students their own platforms to represent themselves because women need to represent their individual needs.”
For Mukai Chigumba, the needs of women must be at the forefront of University consciousness. She believes that at present, University administrators do not understand women as multi-faceted with a variety of needs. “I would like to emphasize the overall wellbeing of women which includes their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health in a way that is both body-positive and empowering.”
As Women’s Liberation Officer, Chigumba’s organisational focus would be on the sexual health of women. She wants to hold more consent workshops and create spaces where women feel comfortable talking about sex. “I want to educate people on the disorders that affect women’s ability to enjoy sex and why women enjoying sex is such a political issue.” She also wants to encourage body positivity and ensure that female students feel sexually liberated, whether they choose to partake in sex or not.
As director and founder of the BlackEd movement and president of the African Carribean society, Chigumba believes that she has had the necessary experience of working with people and planning events that will make her a good Women’s Officer. She says she is not afraid to speak up and use her voice to stand against injustice. “The women students at our University can rest assured that they will have a women’s officer that is prepared to go to great lengths to make sure that their needs are met.”
Voting in the Edinburgh University Students Association Election is open March 8-11.
Image via Flickr