Hi everyone! It’s Rachel Powell here, your Student Officer Equality & Diversity.
All of our summer events have come to an end and Freshers is upon us, so I thought I’d update you all on what I got up to over the summer months…
I started my new term with a bang and jumped straight in to the issues that matter most to me. Following the first meeting of the USI Students for Choice Taskforce with Jessica Elder (Student Officer Welfare), I was certainly feeling repealin’ and buzzing all about that bodily autonomy.
USI Nationwide Students for Choice Taskforce 2017-18
Here’s a wee snap of my wonderful Student Officer team with our repeal jumpers on during the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar’s, visit to Queen’s University to talk about the future of North South Relations.
The image that went viral. Someone described our faces as full of hundreds of years of women’s scorn which I quite liked.
I was privileged to get to ask the Taoiseach to confirm the Repeal Referendum would be held outside of the summer months to ensure students have full access to voting. It is fair to say that this question, along with our choice of clothing, made an impression as we reached over 80 million views from news articles alone and not counting social media.
Being pro-choice is of huge significance to me and it is something I made very clear during my campaign. We have a policy in support of the full decriminalisation of abortion at Queen’s Students’ Union and I am very keen to make the most of that this year. There are a few activities and events coming up soon, so watch this space, but in the meantime, try to attend these events:
- Rally against the 2 Child Cap and Rape Clause: 21 September 2017, 1pm, Causeway Exchange, 1-7 Bedford Street, Belfast. Being Pro-choice also means you should have the right to have as many children as you want, and this policy is abhorrent, classist and disgusting. Event details can be found here.
- 6th Annual March for Choice: 30 September, 2pm-7pm, Garden of Remembrance on Parnell Square, Dublin. It is crucial we show solidarity with the Republic of Ireland in their upcoming Referendum to get the 8th Amendment repealed! Event details can be found here.
- Rally for Choice presents GIRL, Beauty Sleep & Hiva Oa: 5 October 2017, 8pm-1am. Event details can be found here.
- Rally for Choice: 14 October, 2pm-3.30pm, Buoy Park, Academy St., BT15 1 Belfast. Let’s rally to get abortion decriminalised! Event details can be found here.
So on my first day of office on 1 July, we had the March for Marriage Equality which was incredibly inspiring and motivating.
Photo Credit: Will Hancock Evans (stolen from Stephen McCrystall)
The day after our meeting with the Taoiseach, we had Belfast Pride – and what an amazing turnout we had!
With the wonderful LGBT+ Society President – Will Hancock-Evans
I ordered lots of merchandise for all Queen’s students attending and got flags outside of the front of the Students’ Union building for Asexuality, Bisexuality, Pansexuality, LGBT+, Gender Queer, Gender Fluid and Intersex.
QUBSU Sabbatical Team at Pride 2017 – Photo Credit Stephen McCrystall
We teamed up with Queen’s University and marched alongside them and the biggest student bloc of all time, which included students from all across Ireland and the UK. This was a fantastic day with the sun shining throughout. Remember – PRIDE IS A PROTEST!
Student Bloc at Belfast Pride – Photo credit: Síona Ní Chatháil
Since then, I’ve been trying to organise the first a Trans Awareness Campaign at QUBSU. I’ve connected with Ellen Murray from the Trans Resource Centre/GenderJam and Sail along with Queen’s LGBT+ society and we are currently planning all of the fun and more serious logistics of this campaign. So not to sound repetitive – but watch this space!
I also attended Top-up Training in Dublin with USI and particularly loved the training on Trans Inclusivity delivered by TENI. Here’s an image of some of the officers that attended:
Top-up Training 2017
And below here are some of the Queen’s Students and Staff that marched together at Belfast Pride 2017.
Photo credit: Queen’s University Belfast
International Students – International Buddy Scheme
Here is a photo of an incredibly tired me on the first night of the international buddy scheme.
We had approx. 580 students attend this event and hundreds attended the traditional crawl the following evening. This was the biggest buddy scheme yet and I am so thankful to my team for helping me make this happen, to all of the students who volunteered to become a buddy, and to the new found friendships that happened last week. This campaign took weeks to organise and I am so relieved that there was such a huge turnout and so many students seemed to enjoy themselves. I also want to say a big thanks to Hamsa, our International Part Time Officer, for all of her help!
I am also in the process of researching an international student’s guarantor scheme, as I’ve noticed that a lot of landlords have been taking advantage of international students this summer. So I’m currently researching other places that have this programme and trying to make this something that will happen at QUB. It is only fair that international students are treated in the same way – they are already charged more for fees so we have to stop them getting charged more for rent!
Postgraduate Student Issues
Ok, so postgraduate issues are something that has been very close to my heart as I am a part-time, disabled, postgraduate student myself and there are many barriers for students like me. I have had meetings with the Graduate School and the Department for Academic and Student Affairs this summer and hope to engage more postgraduate students than ever before in the SU. One of the most exciting things that has happened this summer was my planning with two PhD Student Parents, Alison and Catherine. We are currently in the process of creating a PhD Student Parents Network, which we hope to roll out this year along with the Student Parent Survey to highlight the needs of student parents and hopefully expand this network to suits the needs of all student parents.
There are many exciting things happening for Postgraduates within the SU and I couldn’t be happier to see such high levels of engagement among this under represented group.
Speaking of postgraduate issues, while working this summer, I completed my MA Thesis and degree in Conflict Transformation and Social Justice. I completed a Historical and Contemporary Analysis of U.S. Right Wing Populism and the Impact on Women’s Rights Movements. This intersectional piece of feminist writing enabled me to meet with amazing activists in the U.S. and I couldn’t feel more motivated to put this degree in Social Justice to good use.
I hope that through my experiences as an undergrad, to part-time, disabled, low-income, woman postgraduate student, I can represent as many people as possible through my time as Student Officer Equality & Diversity. I cannot wait to learn from and work more with others and deliver the campaigns we need on campus. This summer has been hectic and I haven’t had a minute free – but it’s worth it to see the small changes we have made so far.
If you’re interested in getting involved in a pro-choice campaign, Trans Awareness Campaign, Disable the Label campaign, a PhD Student Parents Network, or anything else I’ve mentioned, just give me a shout by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org