Journey to FEM
Em talks to Kushali and Sarah, two awesome Year 12 students from Auckland, about starting a feminist group in their high school.
What made you decide to start FEM?
We are all passionate about women’s rights and we thought that it was time for us students to get together and discuss gender issues and try and make a difference ourselves. Our school has a lot more male students than female students, so, even though girls are well catered for at our school, we feel that it is necessary to have this kind of group in the 21st century.
What were some of the hurdles you had to overcome?
Our school is a State school where there are people of many different beliefs, which is great, but it meant that certain staff members worried that some parents wouldn't approve of this kind of a group. We had to convince them that it would be beneficial for young women at our high school. The school didn't want to step on any toes or offend anyone, so it wasn't automatically accepted.
Why do you feel this group will be important for the young women in your school?
We wanted to create a safe place for people at our school to come together and discuss topics relating to feminism, where there was no judgment.
We wanted to open people’s minds and make them think, because often it is harder for some people to see the issues that are right in front of them if they aren't being directly affected by them. Embedded sexism is prevalent in our lives today, so much so that it is hard for women, especially young women, to see that it is not okay. Because we live in a progressive country, it is also hard for people to understand how desperate the situation is for women in extremely sexist countries, or third world countries where they are still going through what we would refer to as “the first wave of feminism”.
We think that it is vital in this day and age to discuss gender inequality as it raises awareness which, hopefully, will lead to eliminating gender inequality and sexism. It is also extremely important for young women to feel like they can do the same things that men can do, and we feel that this group is a platform to achieving that.
How did you feel at your first FEM event?
We were absolutely blown away and amazed that there were so many people (70) boys, girls and staff members coming together to talk about gender discrimination and were willing to give up their time to shape a better future. It made us feel very hopeful about what could happen for the group and what we could all achieve together.
What are your hopes for the future of FEM?
We hope this group will continue meeting long after we leave high school, and that it will grow in numbers and in diversity of people coming.
Ultimately our goal is to build a strong support system between the members and to hopefully one day raise enough awareness and have a strong enough standing in the school to start campaigning against worldwide gender issues.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of starting a group like FEM?
If you are truly passionate about feminism or whatever group you are thinking of making, don't let negative comments bring you down, but use them as a drive to work harder and to shape your group into a better version.
Look for support in staff members and adults that are willing to advocate for your group, you would be surprised how much support is out there when you ask for it.
Don’t let people try to steer you away from your goal, it is genuinely so satisfying coming together when we have meetings and it is very empowering having a platform for us to discuss topics; it is worth the fight!
What are your hopes for women in the future?
We hope that in the future people will live in a world where there is zero gender discrimination of any sort; whether it is sexual, home, or work related, and where women and men are totally equal and united.
By Kushali and Sarah