International Women's Day: Choose to Challenge

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As I’m sure many of you are aware, today is International Women’s day! This annual event is celebrating 110 years of raising awareness of gender inequality and campaigning for change. The theme of the day this year is Choose to Challenge, and so I thought today would be the perfect time to give you an update on what we’ve been challenging this year, and the progress we have made so far. As always, my door is always open if you have any issues, questions or ideas. If so please don’t hesitate to contact me, I would love to hear from you! 

Period Dignity 

Hopefully a fair few of you will have seen the Period Dignity Campaign by myself and VP Welfare Georgie East, which we officially launched at the beginning of February! The purpose of this campaign is to offer inclusive and intersectional support to all those that menstruate at Cardiff University, not just financially, but also with empowerment and education to tackle stigma and ensure all those that menstruate can do so with dignity.? 

The first phase of this campaign was to provide you with accessible period products for everyone, and to do so we partnered with local, ethical and sustainable period care brand TOTM! Right now, you can access products at our Menstruation Stations, which can be found in these four gender neutral locations throughout the SU: 

  • Welcome Centre, 2nd Floor 

  • Gender Neutral Toilets, Y Plas, 2nd Floor 

  • Toilets, adjacent to the Balcony Bar, Y Plas, 3rd Floor 

  • Behind the Welcome Desk, 2nd Floor 

We understand there may be some students who are not comfortable openly collecting products. As such, products behind the Welcome Desk are packaged in discrete, unmarked paper envelopes, to ensure all students can access the products in whatever way they want. We have also released a discount code, not just for disposable products, but also for Menstrual Cups to help make periods at Cardiff more affordable.? 

This is just the start for Period Dignity at Cardiff, so keep an eye out for so much more to come! As soon as the world returns to normal, we plan to expand across the university, in order to provide you with products wherever you are on campus. We’re also working with student societies, groups, artists, and activists to be able to bring you educational content and break down stigma. We hope this campaign will start a conversation and create a community for students to be a part of and feel celebrated in themselves and their bodies, as well as fostering a space in which periods can be talked about openly without shame and without stigma. You can find even more info on Period Dignity at Cardiff in Georgie’s blog here


(image credit: @pink_bits

A Pro-Choice Union 

In November 2019 the Students Union decisively passed its Pro-Choice motion. This mandate has allowed us to make real strides this year in challenging and changing the university’s attitude and approach to pregnant students.? 

I have been working to put in place practical support for all students no matter how they choose to continue, which is progressing well! In accordance with the motion, the CUSU Pregnancy Support page now has a strong Pro-Choice stance, offering unbiased, medically accurate and up-to-date information and terminology, as well as links to a variety of external charities to provide support for all options. We have also strengthened our support for the academic needs of students in this time, providing clear information on how the University and Union can support you with your degree no matter what you choose to do. 

I am also very pleased to say that we successfully changed university policy on the approach to pregnant students, which now takes a much more empathetic and student-centred approach. Our updated policy can be found here. I am currently in talks with the wellbeing team in order to come up with a decisive action plan of how to turn this into practise and provide tangible, practical support which treats all students in an unbiased, nurturing, and individualised manner, gently guiding students through the choice and process. We have so much more to come on this, so look out for updates! 

(TW: Violence, abuse and harassment) 

Addressing Violence and Abuse 

One issue that I have been extremely passionate about challenging this year has been the lack of support available for students that have experienced violence, abuse, or harassment. I’m so happy to be able to tell you that we have seen some incredibly good progress on this recently!? 

With the help of Wellbeing, we have seen the university release a brand new commitment against violence and abuse, which involves greater student input, more collaboration between departments, more widespread training, working with external partners, better support, as well as regular reviews of the process. 

 If you’re interested in finding more information on the commitment, you can find all the details here.  

This is a good step in the right direction, and I’m glad to see the issue being taken seriously, however there is still more to be done. Going forward I am working with the university to reform the complaints procedure to make it safer and more sympathetic for personal complaints, and I am hopeful that we will see this start to take shape in the next few months. 

As always, if you are experiencing or affected by any of these issues then please don’t hesitate to reach out to the Disclosure Response Team here.? 

Expanding Skill Sets 

Another way we’ve been working to support you at Cardiff is by providing you with greater opportunities to learn new skills in women focused environments. Our main win for this so far has been working with Code First Girls to set up and run coding courses for our women and non-binary students and recent graduates. By creating this space and community, we can develop valuable skills in a fun, low-pressure environment, in what might typically be a very male dominated space. So far this year we have run two courses in web design and development, and I am now working with our Skills Development Service to see if we can embed this course and possibly others, so they can continue to be offered for years to come. 

As well as this, through the wonderful work of VP Education Hannah Doe, all students at Cardiff can access LinkedIn Learning for free! This offers over 1600 short video courses by industry experts in software, creative, and business skills, and you can sign up to these using your Cardiff email address. 

Space to be Heard 

Community and conversation is a huge part of my role as your Women’s Officer! At the start of the year, one of my major goals was to create a space in which all people from all backgrounds could come together and start a conversation about what has been overlooked about their experience, and what we could do to improve it. 

To achieve this, we have restarted the Women’s Association! This is a place for everyone and anyone, regardless of gender, to come together to discuss these projects and meet like-minded people. I understand that my experiences will not always be the same as yours and so it is massively important to me that we are able to have open dialogue with all students in order to find tangible, practical solutions that make our university safer, more inclusive, and more progressive for every student. 

Polly Denny, Women's Officer 2020/2021


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