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3 ways you can campaign for gender equality
By Ellen Stickland
As you may have heard, Thursday 8 March 2018 marks International Women’s Day (IWD).
This historic day commemorates the movement for women’s rights, and it’s been around for quite some time. Stretching back to the early twentieth century, the first observance of IWD was in New York in 1909, and the movement has gone from strength to strength ever since. In 1975, the UN officially coined the date to mark the sacrifices and achievements made by women in the fight for equality. Since then, the 8 March has been a marked day of celebration.
International Women’s Day may be well known, but did you know that each year there is a theme? This year, we are all being encouraged to ‘Press for Progress’. By dedicating ourselves to a pledge on the International Women’s Day website, we make a small commitment towards promoting gender equality. The pledges suggested include: challenging stereotypes, standing up to bias and pushing for the positive visibility of women.
Seems a bit daunting? No fear – break them into smaller, manageable goals and they become far more tangible. Here are three ways we, as students, can contribute to the campaign for gender equality:
1. Call out inappropriate behaviour in your circles
This is often the hardest thing to do. Sometimes an inappropriate comment or tasteless joke may seem relatively harmless, but it is these microaggressions that allow sexism and inequality to thrive. It seems terrifying to publicly call someone out, but often the person who made the comment may not realise what they said was inappropriate. Wouldn’t you like to know if you were being inappropriate?
2. Organise events with your Student Union
Many unions have Female Empowerment societies – maybe you’re part of one yourself! If you’re unsure where to start, look to get involved with your on campus feminist society. Your student union may have already planned events to mark International Women’s Day, but if you feel there is something missing, get involved! They will love suggestions, and it is a fantastic way to encourage others to engage with activities and campaigns.
3. Talk to your lecturers about reading lists
Diversity in reading lists is a conversation that has been going on for many years. If you feel that women (particularly women of colour and LGBTQ+ women) are not being fairly represented in your course, raise this point with your lecturer. They may not be able to do anything to change the course for your year group, but, by having the discussion now, you may be able to create change. As a result of your direct actions, students starting university next year may have the chance of a far wider variety of writers in their syllabus.
It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure we are doing all we can to promote gender equality. Every small action we take is important to the cause. As students, we are in a unique position in that we are surrounded by our peers every day and have the opportunity to influence and change beliefs that may be harmful to gender equality.
If you would like to learn more about International Women’s Day and get involved, visit International Women's Day.