Freshers’ Week: Women’s Officer Darcy Ramsden shares her plans for this year

My name is Darcy Ramsden and I am the SU Women’s Officer for the academic year 2016-17. If you don’t know what the Union officers are or what they do, don’t worry, neither did I when I arrived two years ago. I am a third year Philosophy undergraduate obsessed with biscuits, books and fighting the patriarchy. I have about sixty boxes of different teas and enough pictures of cute otters on my phone to entertain you for hours. Now, on to the important stuff.

My job is to ensure women’s representation in the Union, as well as women’s welfare, mental health, inclusion and safety across the University. By “women” I mean “all who self-define as women, including those with complex gender identities that include ‘woman’, and those who experience oppression as women”. As leader of the Women’s Network I will also be organising a variety of women’s only events and ‘Ladies Nights’ throughout the year. This will include movie nights, games nights and colouring in (yup, it’s so therapeutic) to ensure that there are always safe spaces for you to socialise and relax throughout the academic year.

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I will also be working closely with FemSoc, the other part-time and full-time officers in the Union and many, many others throughout the year to help facilitate campaigns promoting liberation for women. One of the most engaging and popular campaigns that runs every year is the Reclaim the Night March. Reclaim the Night is an international women’s liberation movement protesting against victim-blaming, as well as working towards ensuring that perpetrators of sexual violence are held fully accountable for their actions and are convicted accordingly. Our Reclaim march tends to be in the second half of first term so keep an eye out for it and get involved; we always need banner-makers and stewards.

Other ongoing campaigns, events, groups and societies for women that you can get involved with include Bristol Speak Out, That’s What She Said magazine, FemSoc, Spotted: Sexism at Bristol, Bristol Sisters Uncut, LaDIYfest Bristol, International Women’s Day and many more. On larger courses you may find there is a society specifically for women on your course such as Women in Engineering. There are also various democratic events throughout the year that allow you to have your say in who represents you and what campaigns we run, including (but not limited to) Women’s Forums, which I will run, the Annual Members Meeting, the NUS Women’s Conference and our very own Bristol SU Elections – you could be our next Women’s Officer!

During your first few weeks, your halls will be running consent workshops about preventing sexual violence on campus. I cannot fully express how important it is to reaffirm and improve your knowledge about sexual violence. Assault and sexual violence are deeply entrenched problems on university campuses – just look at the Brock Turner case. We must  improve upon the frankly abysmal sex education that UK schools teach (or attempt to teach) to ensure everybody’s safety.

Please also be mindful that 10% of the victims of sexual violence are men. While my role is that of Women’s Officer, many of the campaigns and support groups I am associated with can benefit and support men who have experienced assault, rape or domestic abuse (for example, The Survivors Network) and if you identify as a male victim of sexual violence or domestic abuse and are unsure of who to talk to, I will be more than happy to help.

Throughout this year I have several key goals. Early on in the year I will be recruiting volunteers to form a Women’s Committee, somewhat similar to the NUS Women’s Committee, to ensure intersectionality in our Women’s Network, campaigns and events so that all women at this university feel represented. In second term I will hopefully run a new campaign against sexual harassment and abuse on social media and will need enthusiastic people to join me on that challenge. I will also be supporting FemSoc as they organise various exciting Ted-X style talks throughout the year to increase the number and diversity of successful and inspiring women speaking at our university. Finally, raising awareness of mental health issues and providing safe spaces, counselling and therapy for those affected is hugely important to me and I encourage everyone and anyone to get involved with upcoming campaigns and with Mental Health Awareness Week.

I will be on a stall most of the time at the Freshers’ Fair this Friday, so please find me if you have any questions and sign up for emails about everything that is going on in the Women’s Network! Ideas for new campaigns are always welcome from now onwards and anybody who wants to get involved with certain projects, please get in contact with me on my student query email: darcy.womensofficer@gmail.com

Best of luck, see you on Friday, and remember to stock up on Lemsip for next week!

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