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Thursday, 22 March 2012

NUS Women's Conference BME Report

by Susuana Antubam 

When I started talking to women of black and ethnic minorities before the conference I realised that the student union's liberation setup had major gaps. There is an ethnicity position on the Inclusion and representative senate but no one in the place and therefore there is no focus group or committee or anything. Therefore the closest thing was the Afro-Caribbean society and looking at other cultural societies around campus. There is also no women's representative on the inclusion and representative senate and therefore there is also no focus group. The closest thing to a focus group was the Feminism society, which I am a proud member of but still, it is not women's committee, we encourage people of all genders to join. There is a gender representative on the Inclusion and representative senate, however, this member is required to look at the representation of gender as a spectrum and not favour any gender over another.

A women's officer is a huge role, they look at campaigning for all women, including lgbt, BME, disabled, Student parents carers, postgrad, international and mature women. The gender representative position comes with an enormous amount of work, and unpaid! I personally think that mandating them with the job of an women's officer on top of the wok they do is too much work. It disheartened me to see  that every student from every university that I talked to had a women’s officer or representative, and even FE colleges saw the importance of female representation. It surprised many delegates from other universities and colleges when I told them that neither me or my of fellow delegates were not part of a women's committee (which was what was written down on the NUS motions paperwork), and that we were just feminist society members, a society which seems to be the main, if not only link with NUS women campaign's in absence of Royal Holloway's women's committee. Yes The majority of Royal Holloway is women, but the majority of the roles in the Student's Union are men. In my opinion, Royal Holloway needs a proper committee with women from all walks of life, including: BME, lgbt, international, disabled and parents and carers and more. 

Also I realised that international students can also fall under the category of ethnicity but their views would be very different from home students. I was glad that this was raised at the conference and that there was a motion passed to have a international rep on the NUS Women's committee.

At NUS Women's conference I attended the meeting for the Black and ethnic Minorities caucus. They all discussed issues about how little cross liberation there was between their women's officers and their BME officers. I sat there and thought to myself that they were lucky to even have those positions in a union that cares enough to have them. Even with the research that I had done, I had next to nothing compared to the support they had.

Another issue that was highlighted was the election of these officers/representatives in student unions. At the Surhul NUS liberation conferences elections women were allowed to choose their women delegates, however everyone was allowed to vote in the elections for lgbt and disabled elections. I believe this is wrong. Many delegates I spoke to said that only people that identified with those certain liberation campaigns where allowed to vote for them. I believe that one way of voting for liberation officer could be done through the SU website. This may also help raise awareness of elections, committees and sub groups. 

In summery I found it difficult to represent a cross-liberation sector when it was non-existent at Royal Holloway. I found this was the the main issue that came up in my perpetration of the conference and the one I came back with too. When delegates, which are usually officers or representatives in their student's union, return from conference, they usually continue get up dates from the NUS Campaign. We haven’t got a Women's representative, we haven’t got a BME representative. How is cross liberation going happen where there are no stable positions for them to happen between?
This experience, showed me that elections of liberation representatives at SURHUL need to be promoted better and more democratic, it should be more than ticking boxes and bureaucracy, there needs to more grass roots research and truly representative campaigns taking place.

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