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SFSS Women's Centre inspires social awareness, campus connection for all
The SFSS Women’s Centre, located on the second floor of SFU’s Student Union Building, is bustling and warm. Students gather around a large central table to study. A kettle bubbles in the corner for tea, as two students work on a puzzle. The walls are lined with plants and the art of previous Women’s Centre volunteers. According to Women’s Centre Coordinator Simmi Dhaliwal, the personality and interests of students are not just part of the physical space, they are centered in the Women’s Centre’s approach.
“I adore working with post-secondary students,” she says. “I think they’re so funny, and radical, and authentic.”
The Women’s Centre Collective, a governing group of student volunteers, oversees the Centre’s policies and assesses the needs and wants of the student body. With a focus on pro-feminist, sex-positive, trans and intersex inclusive, pro-choice and anti-racist values, the Centre provides education, resources and fosters a sense of community on campus.
Sam, the Centre’s administrative assistant, was previously a member of the Collective before moving into a staff role.
“I first got involved with Out on Campus (OOC), because I’m also a queer student,” says Sam. “OOC and the Women’s Centre are very interconnected, I spent a lot of time in both spaces, accessing resources, hanging out with the coordinators and studying there. I felt the need to do some sort of volunteering, I wanted to give back to these groups.”
“Through the collective, our approach really is a reflection of the current needs of students,” says Dhaliwal. “That need, currently, is very heavy on the community element of our work. After a year and a half off-campus, a lot of students feel disconnected and are looking to reconnect with one another.”
For both Dhaliwal and Sam, building this community and supporting students’ university experiences is a highlight of being part of the Centre. They hope the Women’s Centre provides the right environment for students to create memories.
“Post-secondary is about creating lifelong friendships,” says Dhaliwal. “I hope the space serves that function: to study in, to connect with, to laugh at, to cry at, to learn at.”
The Centre hosts a variety of events and workshops, from art-based activities like their popular tie-dye night, to social justice interests such as July’s Bans off Our Bodies solidarity event and fundraiser. The Women’s Centre helps students to meet others with similar values and learn about feminism, LGBTQIA2S+ issues, consent culture and safe sex, as well as professional and personal skills and more.
Dhaliwal and Sam emphasize that the Women’s Centre is here to service everyone.
“There are men that walk through the door of the Women’s Centre, wanting to educate themselves, become better people, and heal their own trauma,” says Dhaliwal. “It’s really rewarding to me, to see so many men wanting to change and get support, to be better versions of themselves and change the status quo of toxic masculinity.”
As a longtime volunteer, Sam also hopes to see consistent and established programming that can be stewarded forward as staff and volunteers change.
As the team continues to build out their programming, they are slowly expanding the Women’s Centre’s offerings to Vancouver and Surrey and with the goal of creating a space and establishing a student collective on each of these campuses. “We hope to empower student involvement,” says Dhaliwal “We really want to enable student autonomy and power.”