I ran to be CUSU Women’s Officer because I want to facilitate a Women’s Campaign which will be a force for change in Cambridge. The Women’s Campaign is collectively owned by its members, and I want the whole community to feel like they can shape the Campaign’s work and be a crucial part of making it a vibrant and active movement.
So what are my plans?
This year the Women’s Campaign will focus on three central campaigns: Justice for survivors, fair working conditions for women staff, and tackling the disparity of women’s experiences at Cambridge.
Justice for survivors
For several years the Women’s Campaign has been lobbying for a reformed disciplinary procedure which better serves survivors of sexual violence. We finally won these changes a few months ago, but it is clear that the fight is far from over. I want every college to have a disciplinary procedure which is fit for purpose by coordinating efforts across colleges through JCR Women’s Officers, and to maintain scrutiny on the university and how the new procedure works in practice. We need to kick rape apologism out of student movements and resist the rehabilitation of groups that systematically cover up accusations of sexual assault and are now attempting to recruit students.
I also want this work to stretch beyond the university, connecting with the local community as well as building global solidarities. Homeless women in Cambridge are more likely to have experienced sexual violence in the past and are at increased risk while homeless. Whitworth House is a women’s hostel in Cambridge which has recently faced threats of closure, and fighting for its long term future will be a priority for the Women’s Campaign this year. We must also look beyond the town, reviving the Women’s Campaign’s historic support for the Shut Down Yarl’s Wood campaign and extending solidarity to students fighting sexual violence internationally, such as with women protesters in Hong Kong who are currently struggling against police sexual violence.
Women, work and wages
Staff working conditions are also student working conditions, and a vision for a liberated university must include both students and staff. Nationally, the gender pay gap in the Higher Education sector was 15.3% in 2017. In Cambridge it is even higher, standing at 19.7%. The university must commit to a plan to close the gender pay gap, and I want to push every college to publish transparent reports on their individual gender pay gaps. Many of the colleges’ lowest paid workers are domestic workers, who are disproportionately women and often migrant women. I want to build links between the Women’s Campaign, CUSU Ethical Affairs and the Living Wage Campaign to continue to mobilise on the living wage and fair working conditions, especially for women staff who often get the worst deal.
As well as fair pay, access to childcare is essential for women staff. The Women’s Campaign was founded in the 1970s in the midst of the Nursery Action Group’s campaign for the university to provide childcare for women staff. I want childcare to be a concern for the Women’s Campaign again, as childcare is prohibitively expensive for many staff and student parents, and there are not enough spaces to meet demand. I am really looking forward to working with UCU on pay and childcare this year, and strengthening the connections between our unions.
Ending disparity of women’s experiences at Cambridge
The women’s colleges have some of the highest rents of any colleges in Cambridge, meaning women students are disproportionately likely to pay higher rents and struggle with the cost of living at Cambridge. This is also a racialised issue, since the women’s colleges have higher numbers of Muslim women students who apply directly to those colleges. I’m looking forward to working with the active Newnham and Murray Edwards Cut the Rent Campaigns as part of CUSU’s Cost of Cambridge priority campaign this year.
I will also review the Gender Attainment Gap in relation to other factors affecting attainment such as race, class and disability. In 2015, previous Women’s Officer Amelia Horgan conducted research into the Gender Attainment Gap and published a landmark report which made several recommendations. I want to push the university to implement the report’s recommendations, such as pushing all the faculties to publish transparent data on gender attainment in their subject.
If these campaigns interest you, make sure you come along to WomCam Forum every Wednesday during term time in the CUSU lounge at 7pm!