Meet the three Black women elected to Sheff SU for the first time
‘This victory shouldn’t have taken this long’
The new Sheffield Union Officer team for next year was announced last week. For the first time ever, three Black women were elected.
After the Black Lives Matter protests last summer, there were increasing calls for the SU to be more diverse and truly representative of the student body.
The Sheffield Tab found the last Black woman elected was Evette Prout as the Development Officer in 2015, and for the past six consecutive years, there have been only white candidates and a few Brown and Asian officers.
In the most diverse team ever, The Sheffield Tab spoke to Anesu, Savannah, and Shona about their SU victories.
Anesu (Ness) Matanda-Mambingo – Welfare & Sustainability Officer
Anesu’s aims include ensuring support for Covid alumni, advancing a student-focused transition to a new normal, and delivering and progressing sustainability in all our courses and outlets.
She told the Sheffield Tab: “This victory means a lot to me. The environmental sector is very white-washed and I am honored to be the first Black woman to be elected in this role and to be the first person doing it.
“Representation is so important and goes beyond just diversity roles. It is nice to see three Black women have the skills, experience, and knowledge to use this opportunity to show that they are capable too.
“Black Lives Matter enhanced the power individuals can make as a collective and presented a side of the story that isn’t always seen. Having us three Black females enact change and getting our voices even more heard, in a space that isn’t always reflective, is inspiring.
“I am really excited to progress the things I know and bring the change everyone is passionate to see happen.”
Savannah Hanson – Education Officer
Savannah’s goals for next year include a fair, consistent, and holistic marking system, value for money education, alleviation of digital poverty and exclusion, innovating opportunities impacted by Brexit and Covid, and ensuring departmental student inclusion committees.
She said: “This victory shouldn’t have taken this long. It is strange not to see yourself represented in your leadership body.
“Throughout the process, a lot of people have assumed I am running for Liberation Officer and not really ask. This is exactly why I am doing this. We should be in roles that do not have an ethnic label on the title. I am glad people voted for me because they like what I am saying and to have captured what we actually need, which is a relief.”
In terms of decolonising education, Savannah said this is a long process of years but she is hoping to lay the foundations for it. “It’s about taking a look at our staff members and employing those who can teach things a bit broader than our current curriculum. It’s not about removing historic figures and adding Black voices for tokenism, but because there is genuinely something they have to offer – not just to Black students, but for everyone.
“I cannot wait to get started and to work with two other amazing Black women and the rest of the team.”
Shona Tulloch- Liberation Officer
Representing all liberation groups (BME, LGBTQ+, women, and disabled), Shona’s aims are: supporting all students from liberation groups, ensuring decolonisation and an anti-racist university, improving adjustments and accessibility for disabled students, encouraging more gender-neutral facilities and wider access to free sanitary products, as well as boosting quality inclusions and consent training.
She said: “It is really hard to put yourself forward and run when you know you are facing a lot of barriers because of your race. It is disheartening and a little bit daunting not seeing any Black faces for the last six years, but I am super proud of all of us for running and moving forward in this position.
“This role is not just about representing women but a lot of different marginalised groups. As a student in these groups, Black, queer, disabled, and a woman, I felt I had a lot of things to say.
“I have struggled to see myself represented in positions of power at the university and in the SU. I now hope people of colour see themselves reflected in the officer team, helping them realize that you should definitely run too. We’ve broken these barriers so can you.
“I am looking forward to starting as there are a lot of changes I want to make happen.”