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New resources to combat gender based violence

Thursday 27-09-2018 - 11:55

Today marks the public launch of the gender based violence support cards being rolled out to 150,000 college and university staff across Scotland. It equips them to support survivors – an important first step in combatting gender based violence on campus and an approach which NUS Scotland has championed.   

Shuwanna speaking at the launch of the GBV support cards

Our work to develop gender based violence support cards started in November 2017 during the 16 days of action, an annual occurrence which marks activism against violence towards women and girls. We launched a pilot of support cards and other materials, which featured national helplines so that students would know how to access support if they were experiencing or felt at risk of gender based violence.  

This pilot, taken forward in collaboration with Fiona Drouet, a campaigner against gender based violence, received national media coverage and was the foundation for the work carried forward to develop gender based violence support cards for college and university staff.   

Since the start of 2018, NUS Scotland Women’s Campaign has worked in partnership with Universities Scotland, Colleges Scotland, the Scottish Government, Trade Unions and Women’s Organisations to develop a new resource: support cards which provide information about national and campus based services which support survivors or those at risk of gender based violence.  

Our partnership work included a re-design of the cards with input from focus groups of students and staff across further and higher education in Scotland. These focus groups determined that the cards effectively and accessibly sign post support that meets the needs of the diversity of students, including specialist services for Muslim and BME women, and students from the LGBT+ community. These cards have now been made available to staff across all colleges and universities (including students’ association staff), along with a leaflet containing guidance on how to use the cards. It ensures that staff are well informed on the available services, and provide sensitive signposting to students in need of help and support. We know anecdotally that staff are often the recipients of disclosures, or witnesses to signs of gender based violence.  This resource ensures that staff can sensitively sign-post students to professional services and is a resource that we hope to see being rolled out directly to students in the future. 

In addition to the support cards, posters will be available in college and university buildings and in some institution owned and private accommodation that will also sign-post students to national support services for gender based violence and mental health support services.  

Shuwanna and Diva Mukherji from EUSA speaking about GBV at The Gathering 2018

The support cards are a significant first step in the fight against gender based violence on our campuses and ensuring that students are properly supported whilst colleges and universities work towards developing and implementing the recommendations of the Equally Safe in Higher Education toolkit, and parallel work takes place in colleges. Key next steps for this work will be ensuring staff in colleges and universities will have further training to support students and promote safety on campus.  Further support for institutions will continue through the Government-funded Equally Safe project which provides recommendations and support for colleges, universities and other HEIs to promote prevention and intervention strategies against gender based violence. As the work around Equally Safe in Higher and Further Education continues we want to ensure that students are partners in the design and delivery of initiatives and strategies to combat gender based violence. 

Over the next year, NUS Scotland Women’s Campaign will continue to work in partnership to support the implementation of, and sharing of best practices for Equally Safe in Colleges and Universities. We will also be working with students’ associations to support their engagement with colleges and universities to develop and deliver the recommendation of the Equally Safe toolkits. Our work will include developing guidance for students’ associations about their role in combatting gender based violence – this will be launched ahead of the 16 days of action in November. The Women’s Committee will also work with college and university student officers to facilitate events and training workshops across the year, including offering workshops on the issue of consent. A peer network has also been set up for officers and students’ association staff to share best practice, which will meet in person and online. Please get in touch with me if you’d like to get involved in the network or to find out more about our work around gender based violence.

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