Updated: Sept. 12, 2019 at 4:30 p.m.
Student organizations focused on gendered issues are banding together to facilitate collaboration between one another and increase group membership.
The Gender-Based Initiatives Council was organized to help GW’s gender-focused student organizations – like the Feminist Student Union and GW Women in Business – collaborate to advertise events and promote interest among groups. Student leaders said the council, which banned together in February and began programming this month, will ensure that each group’s schedules do not overlap so that members can attend events from all organizations.
The council currently includes Voices For Choices, Girl Up GW, March On the Campus GW, GW Women’s Leadership Network, GW Women in Business, GW Students Against Sexual Assault, GW Women of Color, GW Feminist Student Union, She’s The First GW, GW Women in International Business, Women and Youth Supporting Each Other and GW Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Student Association.
Jade Hurley, the council’s co-founder, said she wants the council to serve as an informal network for members to communicate with one another about events through email, a newsletter, a shared calendar and a GroupMe.
“This is by students for students, it’s not a student org,” she said. “It’s honestly just a way for all of us leaders in these different orgs to figure out how to meet better so it’s student-led, student-org led, student organized.”
Hurley, who is also the co-president of Voices for Choices, said the council will likely meet once a month and will send out its first newsletter detailing information about programming from any of the participating student organizations on Sept. 17.
Hurley said students first arriving on campus are often “pigeonholed” into one student organization. She said student advocacy groups for gender-based issues have tried to collaborate and support one another in the past, but the council will streamline information among groups to keep all members in the loop.
“Our philosophy is getting the word out,” she said. “Seeing all these things on one page increases the likelihood of people to not just to go to like one org.”
Hurley said the council will also work together to co-sponsor events to improve collaboration and help grow smaller student organizations.
“We all have different niches in the world of advocating for the equality of all genders,” Hurley said. “Why would we not work together when all of us have such a wonderful wealth of information?”
Hurley added that the council is not a student organization but an informal body. Members said some organizations have opted to send a delegate to the council’s meetings each month to take notes and report back to their groups about the council’s plans.
Aria Sakona, the president of Girl Up GW – an organization chartered through the United Nations to advocate for female empowerment around the world – said the council could encourage organizations to increase programming and brainstorm ideas for new events together.
Sakona said Girl Up GW has co-hosted fundraisers with She’s the First – a group that pushes for girls’ education in developing countries – and Voices for Choices. She said the council will provide students who are interested in gender-based topics the opportunity to be involved with as many organizations as they want, because the events will occur on different days.
“We all have really great audiences and members that love the same thing we do,” Sakona said. “And a lot of the things do coincide with each other, so being able to have an organized place – whether it’s a newsletter or calendar or any type of outlet – we can compare when our events are so things don’t conflict.”
Caroline Nelson, the campus relations director for Women’s Leadership Network, said the council will give newly-formed and previously established gender-based groups the opportunity to learn about one another’s groups and develop ways to grow.
Nelson said the council will hold communal office hours and organizations will have meetings together to facilitate discussion about gender-based topics in person.
“Sometimes it can be better to do more things together rather than everyone trying to do things separately,” she said. “And sometimes teamwork is better than everyone trying to do their own thing.”
This post was updated to correct the following:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that the first newsletter will be released at the end of October. It will be sent out next week. The Hatchet also incorrectly stated that gender-based student organizations have not collaborated in the past. They have worked together without the council. This post was also updated to name Hurley as the council’s co-founder. We regret these errors.
This post was also updated to clarify that the council includes 12 gender-based student organizations, but there are more than 12 of these organizations on campus.