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‘Women and liberation groups aren’t represented enough in modules’: An interview with Rosa Tully

“So much of what we learn at university is the stories of white, dead men”

Involved in liberation groups throughout her time at university, Rosa Tully is one of the candidates for Women's Officer during the current Sheffield Students' Union elections.

She spoke to The Sheffield Tab about her experiences while at uni, plans to liberate the curriculum, and aim to end period poverty.

What inspired you to run for Women’s Officer?

Being involved in feminist activism since I was very, very young, I set up a feminist group in my secondary school, have done lots of marches lots of protests, and I wanted to take my commitment to it that step further and try to increase my platform. And I’ve done a lot of work with the Women’s Committee in the SU and it made me realise we’ve still got quite a lot of work to do I think, so I just wanted to get in there and make that change.

Which causes and groups have you been involved in throughout uni?

I’ve been involved in Women’s Committee, I’m the Campaigns Officer on that, and I’m secretary of Palestinian society and I’ve work closely with STAR (Student Action for Refugees). I go to a lot of the BME events, and even societies I’m not a member of, I still go along to their events.
I've worked with Plan International UK, a girls' rights charity, and also interned with a Gender Studies lecturer at the IOE, working on getting feminism in the curriculum.

And what does the SU need to do better to make sure female students feel safe on campus?

One of them is representation. Women and liberation groups aren’t represented enough in modules. So much of what we learn at university is the stories of white, dead men, and it’s hard for us to expect students to feel represented if they’re not represented in the curriculum.

Another is making SU nights safer, so ensuring that sexual assault on our campus and especially nights out is taken seriously. I feel like we have a lot of 'zero tolerance' policy in the SU but there are a lot of women who are experiencing this, and this means there isn’t a zero tolerance policy in the SU.

I also think we need to get more BME women into higher education, as there’s a big shortfall of BME students coming to our SU. It’s predominantly attended by white people.

And also I think sex education on campus needs to be improved. At the moment it’s quite tokenistic. There’s a lot of ticking boxes like consent training, and this needs to be more thorough and take place throughout people’s time at university, not just in freshers.

What are you most proud of about the SU?

I think quite a lot of the officers from previous years have introduced really good initiatives, especially around Women’s History Month, Black History Month etc, and there’s some really good initiatives on campus such as the women's only minibus. We need to make sure that when those officers leave, those things aren’t non-existent. We’ve got a great plurality of societies and activities that people can access and get engaged with. I just want to make sure they’re all accessible to everyone basically.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I aim to keep women and liberation groups at the core of my work by holding bi-monthly meetings with representative committees, and introduce P-Cards to help alleviate period poverty.

Another thing I want to change about the SU is I feel quite a lot of people at the university exist in vacuums and they don’t really give back to what the community. So what I’ll try to do is link the university and the local community together. Sheffield has such a strong history of resistance and liberation history, and we need to use those struggles.

Sheffield is known as the City of Sanctuary and so many refugees and asylum seekers come here, and we should be working here to support those communities, not just being lost in our campus essentially. And also making sure that cis women, trans women, and non-binary people are supported on campus.