In a venture to educate students on feminist activism, the National Union of Students’ (NUS) Scotland Women’s Committee are running a feminist workshop tour with visits to Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen throughout October.
Launched by the NUS Scotland Women’s Officer Shuwanna Aaron, the workshop titled ‘Feminism 10’ aims to equip young women and non-binary students with information on gendered oppression and its impacts.
Responding to demands for conversations about practising feminism and intersectionality on campus, the tour hopes to continue to visit other regions in the future.
The Edinburgh workshop was held on Thursday October 12 an Teviot Row House and run by Hareem Ghani, the NUS UK women’s officer.
Speaking to The Student, Hareem explained that the NUS Women’s Committee, “in the past hasn’t had much of a relationship with students on the ground” and highlighted that times are changing.
“Right now we’re interacting with everyday students and creating links with them, as opposed to just sabbatical officers. We’re trying to build more activism on the ground”, Hareem stated.
Praising the efforts of students and the progress being made, she went on to say “I think for the first time universities are taking the initiative by introducing things like consent workshops, Feminism 101 or unconscious bias workshops. Before we never had those conversations.”
Open to all who self-define as women, the NUS Women’s campaign represents rights for students across the country. Education is a key part of their work to extend and defend women rights.
While Feminism 101 is exclusively for women and non-binary people, Hareem explained that feminism needs men ‘in the room’.
“You also need to talk about the way in which stereotypes are harming men, right? Because we need men to acknowledge a problem as well.”
Hareem acknowledged that she, “used to be one of those people who thought ‘no we don’t need men, we just need to self-organise’. But you can’t have a conversation about sexism, patriarchy, consent and harassment without first having a conversation about where it stems from, and it stems from ideas and stereotypes that are posed on men and women and non-binary people.” It is this attitude that has led NUS UK to start putting together workshops specifically tailored to toxic masculinity and mental health.
The evening was structured around group discussion. Hareem lead open conversations on a range of topics. By breaking down concepts such as sexism and feminism, the broad ranging terms were made approachable for group contributions.
Speaking about the importance of feminism for young people, Hareem said, “I don’t think that you can see the issues for women in higher education or colleges as being separate from the issues that women face in society. It’s all linked.”
Throughout the evening, the group eased into sharing personal experiences, as well as contributing to one another’s education on the subject matter. Struggles and frustrations were shared, from stories of childhood sexism to collective scoffing at gender stereotypes.
Among the participants was Beth, a student from Edinburgh College, who sought to learn more, in the context of setting up a women’s group on her campus. Beth told The Student, “I definitely have more information now. Hearing different opinions has really helped as well.”
Speaking to the participants, the group seemed widely involved and educated on feminism prior to the event.
On spreading the message of feminism, Hareem said “I think feminism as a whole will only attract people who are interested. To attract new people you have to adapt it and be quite flexible in your approach, by trying to find a niche issue.”
Beyond the education-based workshops that include Feminism 101, the next move for NUS UK will be skill-based workshops that provide training on how to diffuse particular situations.
Image: Jon Dowland @Flickr