CW: Sexual Violence
Hope (she/her) is a third-year undergraduate student of Sociology and Politics. She is running to be Edinburgh University Students’ Association’s next Women’s Officer. The Student interviewed Hope to find out more about her campaign.
Why are you running to be the next Women’s officer?
I am running to be the next Women’s Officer because I think I can enact real positive change for the women at this university. I am passionate about my policies. I want to make the university a safer place for women, somewhere that nurtures our health and wellbeing as well as our professional development, and it’s important to me that I take an inclusive approach to the role.
I have relevant experience through my role as a Programme Rep and my committee positions (Social Media Coordinator for Leviathan Journal; Publicity Officer and Advocacy and Outreach Officer for Edinburgh Model United Nations) which have equipped me with skills necessary to implement these policies. Above all else I am persistent, and I want to be persistent in my pursuit of a better environment for female students at the University of Edinburgh.
What is your most ambitious manifesto point and how are you planning to implement it?
I think there are two answers I could give to this question:
I anticipate that my plan to host a Women in Leadership conference would be the most logistically difficult of my manifesto points. Ideally this would involve collaboration with wide range of women’s interest societies at the university such as FemSoc, Girl Up, Women in PIR, Women in STEM, Women in Law, etc. It would also involve booking speakers, publicising the event well, arranging room bookings, scheduling, and more. In that sense, this is perhaps my most ambitious policy point. On the other hand, this is something I believe everyone – from feminist societies to the university itself – will be eager to facilitate.
I believe that the manifesto point I will have to push for hardest is making consent training a mandatory part of university matriculation. This would have a considerable impact upon rape culture at this university, but I anticipate having to be persistent in achieving this goal.
Do you have any collaboration plans with other liberation officers for women with intersecting identities?
I do, and I am so glad this has been asked. Taking an intersectional and inclusive approach to being Women’s Officer is not optional to me – it is necessary. One of my manifesto points is pushing the university to make sanitary products available in all toilets on campus. At present, the university claims to provide sanitary products in women’s, gender neutral, and accessible toilets on campus. However, it was brought to my attention recently that many accessible toilets do not have any available. I would work with the Disabled Students’ Officer to rectify this immediately. This is a terrible oversight and as soon as I heard about this it jumped straight to the top of my list of priorities – disabled students need access to sanitary products too.
Furthermore, trans men also menstruate and should be able to access sanitary products in the toilet they feel most comfortable using. I would work with the Trans and Non-Binary Officer to push the university to expand their period poverty policy to be trans inclusive and cover all on campus toilets.
I look forward to working with my fellow liberation officers regularly if I win!
How are you planning to tackle sexual harassment in the student community?
One of the policies I am most passionate about is making the consent training programme a mandatory part of matriculation week. This has been done at The University of St. Andrews, so it is possible. In my eyes, could even be implemented in a similar manner to the Edinburgh University Students’ Association society officer bearer training.
The benefits of this, in my eyes, are threefold:
1. Many perpetrators believe their actions are excusable because they are operating in a perceived “grey area”. They do not see things like coercive “consent” or stealthing as comparable to the socially accepted idea of a “real” rape. By making it clear that these are in fact acts of sexual violence, we force potential perpetrators to reflect on their perception of consent and learn to be better.
2. As someone with first-hand experience with coercion, I remember not understanding why I felt so uncomfortable and violated. Understanding coercive “consent” diminishes the perpetrator’s ability to gaslight their victim into thinking that what happened was okay and that they are overreacting or that their feelings are not valid.
3. If, after having completed the consent training, a student commits an act of sexual violence against another student who goes on to lodge a complaint about this to the university or to the police, the perpetrator cannot claim ignorance of their wrongdoing as a defence. They knew what they did was sexual assault, and they cannot claim otherwise.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
If you want to read my full manifesto and follow my campaign pages, you can access them through my linktree: https://linktr.ee/hopeconwaygebbie
I would also like to thank Hugh Beaumont and Niamh Roberts for reaching out to discuss collaboration to implement my policies! I really appreciated being consulted on this. I particularly appreciate Hugh ensuring his response to gender-based violence and sexual violence is informed by women and survivors and presenting his own ideas such as providing anti-spiking caps for drinks at Potterow.
Image courtesy of Hope Conway-Gebbie