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26th October 2016

An NUS Women’s Officer is unnecessary

The newly elected NUS Women’s Officer stands for nothing but criticising imaginary problems

The recently elected NUS Women’s Officer, Hareem Ghani, was previously the Women’s Officer for her Students’ Union at King’s College London (KCL). She was part of an anti-sexual harassment campaign called “It Stops Here” as well as being a prominent member of the Intersectional Feminist Society at KCL.

You would think she would care a lot about female empowerment, right? Well, I have taken a look at her manifesto when she was standing for Women’s Officer at KCL specifically and she proposed a range of pledges she was willing to fulfil. Surprisingly she did fulfil one of them: free sanitary products for women across KCL. Please don’t pretend that having free sanitary products for three or four years does a great deal of good for women’s rights when there are homeless women on the street who have no access to these products. A true female activist would set up a campaign to give sanitary products to those women, not to students funded by government loans. In fact, there are campaigns around other universities that do just this. Evidently, Ms Ghani is doing a sub-standard job. Other individuals are getting on with things just fine without her leadership.

Female students in the UK are privileged. Women are equal to men here in this country, under the eyes of the law and within wider British society. It is interesting how she cares a lot about promoting more women (and specifically BME women) into STEM. I have not heard of any initiatives that she has tried to implement at KCL for this. Then again, it is not like it would have made much difference anyway. Women, irrespective of whether they are BME are not, are not disadvantaged when seeking employment in the scientific and industrial sectors. Companies want the best of people irrespective of their gender and race.

Furthermore, she mentioned how, at KCL, she wanted to make university societies more “gender-inclusive”. But which specific societies, by name, were not gender-inclusive when you said that? In my experience of university, I have not seen a society that restricted membership based on gender, and there are usually always both male and female versions of sports. I would love to know more about these gender-restricting societies at KCL. I will personally come down to gate-crash those societies myself.

She says “let’s dismantle the white-cis-hetero-patriarchy together!” This nonsense just does not exist and these made-up terms just distract from more important issues in the country. It does not take much effort to dismantle something that is invisible. Yet, apparently, “part-time activists like [her]self” suffer “burnout throughout the academic year”. Indeed, I am sure it must be tiring focusing so much wasted effort on such a futile endeavour. In whatever ways the NUS wish to label our society as being deficient, I am still happy to live here. It is certainly better than anything led by her and her fellow Officers on the NUS Executive.

This year, she intends to address “black mental health”—whatever that means. I hope she is aware that mental illnesses do not discriminate on your race, gender, social class etc. She also plans to combat violence against women. But how is she planning to do this? She supports the work in having the Zellick report to be reviewed. The Zellick report is a series of recommendations on how universities should deal with sexual assault and rape cases. Worryingly, there was a briefing paper published in 2015 by the NUS (which I presume that Hareem Ghani supports) suggesting that universities should invoke their own disciplinary procedures for those accused of sexual violence and assault, even if it has not been reported or investigated by the police. This opens the door for many false allegations and punishment.

She has not been vocal on other concerns of hers—including abortion rights and abolishing prisons, to name two. For the former, if I am not mistaken but abortions are available on the NHS, right? As for the latter, what has the abolition of prisons got to do with female empowerment in universities? Nothing. This self-serving individual is using her position for her own political agenda. Thankfully, she will never succeed in her aims.

Perhaps the silence on these issues is a blessing in disguise. At least we do not have to listen to the nonsense that would come out of her mouth—which is not dissimilar to the like of Laurie Penny, and all the Guardian Women contributors. Hareem Ghani needs to take off her period-tinted glasses and realise that the reason why universities are becoming more gender-divisive is because of figures like her perpetuating myths about women that simply aren’t true.

She will probably ask me to check my privilege. I have to say that I already have: Je suis Elrica, and I am very much privileged to have been born and brought up in this country. I shouldn’t need to say I feel safe and secure as a female in this country. This is obvious to anyone with common sense. I find her stance on speaking out for all women patronising. The need for a national Women’s Officer in our universities is redundant and unnecessary. She should resign immediately.

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