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Our Campaigns

Feminism advances the idea that all people regardless of gender identity, race, ability, and sexuality should enjoy equal status in society. It is a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing and defending equal political, economic and social rights, as well as equal opportunities for all. Though it is an often misunderstood concept, the Feminist Society believes that feminism is more relevant than ever in contemporary Ireland. 


Acknowledging and building on the long standing history of feminist activism in the University of Galway, which has been revived in recent years by dedicated students and staff, the Feminist Society aims to provide a forum for debate and discussion on issues of inter-sectionalism, equality, and human rights. We are open to all students, staff, and alumni of any gender, and to anyone interested in coming together with like-minded people or to learn more about what feminism represents.


Our activist work to date includes our successful campaign to reform the University of Galway Sexual Violence and Harassment Policies. In the last few weeks and months we have also been actively engaged in the #VoteYesYes campaign to improve the status of women in the Irish Constitution. You can read about both of these below!

As stated by the National Women’s Council “Sexist, stereotypical language has no place in our Constitution and is representative of a time when women were treated like second class citizens. The current definition of family, which only recognises those which exist within the bonds of marriage, is shaming and stigmatising to the countless families who exist outside of marriage, yet are not recognised or protected by our Constitution.” The Irish Constitution is our values documented - we believe that they should reflect the expanding, inclusive, and welcoming society that we aspire to create for all the world to see. Vote Yes Yes and take control of your constitution.


Find out more from National Women's council on their website: Vote Yes Yes - Family and Care Referendums

Campaigning to Reform the University Sexual Violence and Harassment Policies

Why the campaign is important 

Before we began our work the policy had several unnecessary restrictions on survivors, was unclear and inconsistent, was insensitive to the needs of someone going through trauma and generally hostile from the point of view of the survivor. We had been gathering research and information on this issue in the last academic year and found that the majority of students were not familiar with the policies and supports in place for survivors and are not confident in or satisfied with the university's approach. 

In April 2021, the Higher Education Authority (HEA) conducted national surveys to monitor the experiences of students and staff in relation to sexual violence and harassment in order to create a robust evidence base for further policy and funding decisions in relation to tackling sexual violence and harassment in higher education institutions. The following extracts have been taken from the Summary of Survey Findings:


“11, 417 responses were received (7,901 students and 3,516 staff). One in four students agreed that they knew where to go to get help on campus, or where to go to make a report of sexual violence and/or harassment (SVH), if they or a friend experienced sexual violence and/or harassment.”

“A third or less felt safe socialising at night on campus or in the local community.”

“Females were particularly likely to experience sexual violence, with 49% of females describing some experience of sexual touching via coercion or incapacitation, force, or threat of force… Besides females, a relatively high level of exposure to sexual violence was found among gender non-binary students, bisexuals, and students who were gay, lesbian, queer, or another sexual orientation. Students who preferred not to give their demographic characteristics described higher exposure to sexual violence in response to some statements.” 

It is important to recognise the very real effect that policy changes have on a student's life. Just the changes we have brought about on the time limit could mean the difference between a student survivor being able to avail of the disciplinary process and remove an abuser from the community versus that student having to sit in the same classes as their abuser and potentially not being able to move forward with their education as a result. Having support from your community and being able to continue life as normal after a rape or assault can make a huge difference. 


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Beginning the Campaign

In 2021, we carried out a survey asking university students in Galway about their knowledge, experience and opinions of the relevant policies in place. Due to limited resources, this was a short survey with a sample size of 40 anonymous students, which we recognised may not be proportionate. However, we nonetheless found the results highly concerning. 

Over the summer of 2021, we used this information to produce a twenty-page policy report, co-signed by the Students Union, containing recommended changes to the policy. We sent this to the policy owners and other members of university management. There was unfortunately a reluctance to engage with this issue at management level.


As part of our recommendations, we highlighted that we wanted to see a policy that was user friendly, and trauma informed, that would give student survivors the support they deserve. We faced major challenges in achieving this and had to pursue multiple avenues to ensure the issue was a priority. Having been largely ignored by the university when we attempted to engage we took matters into our own hands:


  • We publicly launched the #showupforsurvivors campaign on social media.

  • We held two informational workshops with students to help raise awareness. 

  • We made multiple appearances on student and community radio to discuss the matter. 

  • We sought to build student-staff solidarity on the issue by reaching out to staff members who worked in the area of gender-based violence. We got the advice from staff who had done work on the staff sexual harassment policy and found allies in staff members who sat on decision making boards. 

  • We engaged with the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission to assess the legal obligations of the university with respect to gender-based violence and received advice from Community Work Ireland in advancing our campaign. 

  • We raised the issue with the University President at an SU council meeting and raised the issue at SU hustings.

  • We had a consultation with the Student’s Union Solicitor to ensure that our recommendations were legally viable

  • We got in contact with the new VP for Equality and Diversity as soon as she took office and successfully secured a meeting with her.Helen Maher has been instrumental in the changes that have been put in place to date and the plans for the policy going forward.

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Results to date

There are three bodies for changing a policy in the college- the University Management Team (UMT), the Academic Council. and Údarás na hOllscoile (the governing authority). In February 2022 the UMT agreed on a process document mapping a plan to change the policy in two phases. The first phase is to immediately address changes to some of the key issues in the policy to come into effect on approval of the academic council on April 7th and the Údarás on April 27th. Then the second phase (which was in place regardless of FemSoc’s campaign) is an 18-month review of the policy carried out by a policy expert. This is all being pushed by VP for EDI Helen Maher.


FemSoc have also been granted representation on the Sexual Violence and Harassment Prevention and Response Committee and invited to meetings of the SVH-PR Policy Development Subgroup.

In 2023, Niamh Kavanagh was hired by the University as Sexual Violence and Harassment: Prevention and Response (SVH: PR) policy development specialist and was tasked with overhauling the current policy in collaboration with other university bodies. This includes Rebecca Connolly, the programme co-ordinator both of whom have been working tirelessly on the project since their appointment. 

Policy Consultation and Engagement has been ongoing since June 2023. This includes desk-based research, internal meetings, external meetings, workshops, and attending conferences, training and seminars. Desk based research takes into consideration national and international best practice as well as gap analysis versus framework. 

Future of the Policy

Following this work, significant policy modifications have been identified including moving to 1 policy for staff and students. In addition to the policy, supporting procedures are required to ensure the policy can be properly implemented. Approximately 10 procedures are also required. A Staff/Student Relationship/Consensual relationships policy will also be required to support the updated policy.

The UMT, EDICC, and EDIHR have been met and been brought through the proposed changes, and Niamh Kavanagh assures us that there is unilateral support for the work. From January to February 2024 the focus is on drafting the new/updated documentation with a view to moving to internal and external consultation and legal review in March 2024.

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