Australia

Women’s Policy – UNSW SRC Election 2016

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Proposals to elevate Women’s Wellbeing for 2017, was released in preparation of the upcoming SRC election. These policies have long been overshadowed by the festivities and free food distributions along the main walkway. However, the policies should be the primary focus throughout the SRC Campaigns. After all, the elected SRC is in the best position to promote university-wide welfare programs from promoting action against college violence to requesting equal representation and help women of minorities. This article focuses on informing the reader of the proposals released by Activate and Ignite, drawing similarities and highlighting unique proposals.

 

As any reader might expect, both parties had several proposals based on the fight against Sexual Assault & Harassment. Ignite especially, had many clauses stating currently implemented action plans and the necessity to continue forward with them and further expand these action plans. For example, both Parties were unanimous, in showing further support for the Respect.Now.Always. campaign as well as in further expansion of sexual assault prevention programs and consent training workshops within clubs, societies and through university-wide events. While this is important, it seems even more necessary to seek out new paths of action. After all, UNSW already has  a zero tolerance policy regarding Sexual assault and Harassment; making it our priority to implement policies rather than advocate for further policy making. Ignite especially mentioned the necessity to work alongside the residential communities at UNSW, by ensuring both staff and residing students are aware of the current policy and the mechanisms and procedures supporting the implementation of sexual assault prevention.

 

Both parties were similar in their action plans for promoting Women’s Health. There are similar proposals to maintain women’s physical and mental wellbeing, requesting the presence of a female doctor within campus at all times, better information sharing regarding available programs for women and increasing the availability of sanitary packs. Ignite went on to further advocate for availability of free and affordable contraceptives. Activate uniquely mentioned the recognition of women who did not menstruate as part of the Women’s Collective Safe Space Policy along with the proposal for creating a hygiene products donation bin (“alike that currently at UNSWAD”) and also promoted continuous campaigning to legalise abortion. Creation of breastfeeding spaces to support people with children was also proposed by both parties. However, Activate further proposed to providing subsidies for students who use on-campus childcare facilities.

 

Increasing the efficacy of the Women’s Collective was brought up many times over by both parties. Diversification of the member participation to include more indigenous women and women from minorities and increasing further social events such as workshops, speakers, films were also proposed. Both parties went on to mention the necessity of using existing and new media publications to promote events organised by the Women’s Collective and to share women’s stories, issues and raise their concerns through publishing essays and poems. Activate on the other hand, supported the work with Indigenous Officer to promote greater equity targets for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women, leading to improved educational and financial support. They also promoted collaborative events with cultural clubs and societies such as a multicultural women’s gala dinner to celebrate diversity within UNSW. In line with diversity, Activate also brought a proposal to make prayer kits readily available in Women’s Rooms.

 

Equal Representation is a society wide issue which ultimately affects Women within the University as well. Both parties mentioned the importance of equal representation in clubs and societies and the need to train and encourage women to seek leadership roles. However Activate’s proposals were clear winners in this area. The proposals include an audit to determine the number of women in leadership positions comparative to female membership rates; revising club constitutions to require a grievance office or policy, as well as an Equity Rewards Scheme to incentivise improved representation and participation of women in Arc Clubs and Societies. The latter is a mechanism to increase funding and gain further benefits once a club or society reaches equity and diversity targets.

 

Both parties submitted proposals on issues that are currently affecting women in general. However, it is necessary to especially mention that Activate diverted our attention to an issue that had not been talked of much within UNSW – ‘Unconscious Bias’. This is an issue well-integrated in our society. Sometimes even women themselves are unconsciously bias towards their own sex. To address this issue Activate has proposed mandatory unconscious bias training for staff members- details had been provided stating that all academic staff should complete a one-off training session followed by a regular follow-up online module at the start of every academic year. Campaigning for positive attitudes and interactions with female-identifying students to combat this issue is also proposed by Activate.

 

This is an extremely concise review of the SRC Candidates’ proposals. However, this article was written in the hopes that when you vote for your representative in the SRC this year, it is not for the free pizza and the nice smile the candidates offer as you walk down to catch the bus; Instead to support what you believe will be the best course of action to promote Women’s wellbeing at campus.

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