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Impact speaks to Beth Searby and Emma Ehrenberg, SU Women’s Officers: “[Being part-time] is not as representational as it should be”

Impact spoke to Beth Searby and Emma Ehrenberg, SU Women’s Officers 2014-15, who said that although being part-time is hard, they’ve enjoyed their role and the opportunity they have had to make significant change. Emma is running again to be Women’s Officer for 2015-16, and she hopes that she will be able to continue the work started this year, such as Body Confidence Week. Beth and Emma also hope to continue to tackle lad culture and get rid of the tampon tax before their term ends.

What are your main roles and responsibilities in acting as the Women’s Officers of the Student Union?

E: We represent all women in the University and we lead the Women’s Network, chairing all the meeting with our committee. Basically what we aim to do the most is let students know that if they have an issue or something that they want to change, that we are there for them and that if we cannot help them, that we will direct them to the right person.

We thought lack of body confidence was an aspect that made girls feel less confident in themselves at university

What do you believe has been your greatest accomplishment for the year 2014/15?

E: I’d say the body confidence week, which we had on the week of the 17th November last year. It was a great success and we wrote it in our manifesto to make girls here feel more confident in themselves. Not only just more confident, but happier in general and we thought lack of body confidence was an aspect that made girls feel less confident in themselves at university.

Due to us not being here all the time we do make less of an impact

Due to the role of Women’s Officer being part-time, do you believe that it has been harder to make an impact on the SU and the University in general?

E: Absolutely. It is difficult when you have to make sure that you take care of your degree at the same time because obviously we have less time to do what we want to do than the full time officers do. Due to us not being here all the time we do make less of an impact.

B: Definitely. It just means that we don’t physically have time to have a presence on all the campuses and the most important thing about being an officer is making sure that you are in touch with all of the students that you represent. It’s not as representational as it should be. It means that we are concentrated on the main campus because that’s where we are…

E: …and also because that’s where a lot of students are. We have to be focused on very few things and make sure that those things turn out in a very good way.

We didn’t receive an awful lot of training, we were kind of thrown in at the deep end and were told that we now represent all women at the University and to have fun

What has been your biggest regret from your experience as Women’s Officer?

B: It took us a long time to understand the workings of things, it took us all of the first term to understand where to go when we wanted to get stuff done. We didn’t receive an awful lot of training, we were kind of thrown in at the deep end and were told that we now represent all women at the university and to have fun.

Do you believe that you have been able to, or are on the road to successfully achieving the goals of your manifesto?

E: We’ve ticked some of them off…

B: Half and half…

E: We haven’t been able to do as much about lad culture as we wanted to but we’re focusing on that for what is left of this term.

We couldn’t really do anything [about lad culture] because the investigation was ongoing

B: It’s difficult because of the Week One chanting incident in Fresher’s Week. It was hard to comment on how it was handled really; I felt like we tried to highlight what had happened but we did not try to state how we would remedy anything. Obviously it was handled in an investigation.

E: That put some sticks in the wheel at that point because we couldn’t really do anything because the investigation was ongoing and we couldn’t get in the way of that. Hopefully we’ll be able to do more about that this term.

B: We’ve added some new points in our manifesto, like we’re going to put together a motion to get rid of tampon tax in the SU. UEA successfully achieved it and if we don’t get it done this term we’re going to hand it over to the next Women’s Officer.

I re-ran because I felt like my job was not finished and I knew that there was more to be done

Emma, what has made you decide to re-run for the position of Women’s Officer?

E: I wasn’t going to because I’m moving into my third year, but when approached by my friend to re-run for Women’s Officer in a joint position, I agreed. I did so on the basis that if I re-run, I will have a chance to achieve what Beth and I started this year. So basically I re-ran because I felt like my job was not finished and I knew that there was more to be done.

Beth, will you be running for any similar positions next year?

B: I don’t think so, obviously I want to focus on my course and I want to get involved in more societies. By all means, it could end up that after I finish my third year I run for a full time position, that’s always something that I can be thinking about.

What would you say to the critics of your manifesto and the policies that you have chosen to implement?

E: Maybe some people would say some of the points were unrealistic, for example the network reps, and of course but we had visions and we wanted to succeed in fulfilling them, after a while we realised that some of them were [unrealistic] but some of them weren’t. That’s basically the fact with every manifesto, I don’t think there’s ever been any officer who has been able to fulfil every point in their manifesto.

B: Being a part-time officer in itself is a massive learning curve, and I think that if Emma were to be re-elected, she would have all that knowledge, she would know what was realistic and achievable within the time frame and what wasn’t, whereas we just thought that we could do everything and that we can make everything better and change so many things. We have done what we could with the resources and the time we were given to do it.

We have done what we could with the resources and the time we were given to do it

Do you have any words of wisdom for your successors?

B: I would say, make time for yourself, make sure that you have at least an hour a day where you do nothing, you don’t do your course. Maybe like Sundays, just don’t do anything, don’t even check the e-mail. I think to focus on the positives.

E: I would say to not beat yourself up because there is so much you can do but also you have to think of the obstacles which you can’t overcome and to be happy with what you actually succeed in doing.

Keisha Bullock-Singh

Image: University of Nottingham

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