Tuesday 31-05-2016 - 15:01
NUS Womens Campaign have produced a report looking into the experiences of women's officers across the UK.
Following the SU Women’s Officer Experience Survey 2016 NUS Women’s Campaign conducted earlier this year, we have produced a report that looks at the experiences of Women’s officers across the UK in full and part time roles. This report aims to provide an evidence-based foundation to build our work in supporting women’s officers and creating tailored resources to improve their working conditions.
As National Women’s Officer, one of my main priorities is supporting women’s officers in doing their jobs. Women’s Officers are the feminist front line on UK campuses. From running consent workshops and campaigns on zero tolerance to sexual harassment and violence, to lobbying on more women in the curriculum to increasing support services for student parents, these are just a few of the many things women’s officers on your campuses do.
Being a women’s officer is a tireless and challenging role, particularly given that the majority of women’s officers are in part-time and voluntary positons. I have increasingly found myself offering one-to-one support to our women’s officers to ensure that their education and wellbeing isn’t negatively impacted by their role and that they make it to the end of their term feeling accomplished and healthy. I love being a women’s officer, particularly because I get to work with and help other women’s officers. However, we often face discrimination and harassment as part of everyday sexism and just for being in the role itself.
The Ministry of Justice, Home Office & the Office for National Statistics produced a Statistics bulletin - An Overview of Sexual Offending in England and Wales - which showed that the two groups of people who are most likely to become victims of a sexual violence are women aged 16-19 and full-time women students. And when women students experience sexual violence, the Women’s officer on their campus may well be the first person they speak to about this. Imagine being the first port of call in these situations, without much training or support, in a role you are doing alongside your studies. It’s really tough and hugely challenging. And this is a common reality for the majority of women’s officers in the country.
These are just some of the everyday challenges of being a women’s officer. Students’ Unions and Institutions have to recognise the reality of the vast amount of work that women’s officers actually do. Women’s officers are more than representative places at student councils. Being the official advocate for women students’ liberation on campus isn’t the easiest or safest role anyone could do. In our survey, when we asked Women’s officers about what things made their time difficult, the following seven issues featured heavily:
- Lack of support from their institution and students’ union
- Sexist attitudes of students towards the role
- Poor mental health
- Lack of ability to keep up with studies
- Online harassment
- Lack of engagement from students
- Unable to fully commit to the role as it is unpaid and done whilst studying, as well as having other commitments
In the past month, many women’s officers have supported NUS affiliation referendums and expressed the need to remain in membership of NUS. Find out why it was so important for Lincoln to remain here. The support that women’s officers get from the NUS Women’s Campaign has enabled them to do their jobs. We have provided them with resources, training and networks to tap into when they have needed help. Collectively, we are a vital part of each other’s existence and ability to carry out our roles.
In many ways, the student movement is leading on liberation activism. We should be proud of this and we all have a duty to support the next generation of Liberation activists on our campuses. Our women’s officers work tirelessly and we should all make sure that we are supporting them to do the best they can as women students and women’s officers. So read the report and find out how you can do more to support the women’s officer on your campus. And do everything you can to ensure that your women’s officers are always able to access the crucial support they need from the NUS Women’s Campaign not only to carry out their job, but also work with us towards creating the safer, healthier, happier more inclusive educational environment that we all deserve.