International Women's Day: Chatting with UoM's Saffa Mir
"There is a lot of criticism of 'white feminism' and how the movement isn’t inclusive of minorities."
It was during a car ride through the high hills of the north that I came to know the full story of Saffa’s unexpected journey into student politics. Her journey, graduating from The University of Manchester, then transitioning into work in the Student’s Union, enabled her to understand and involve herself in the world of feminism on a student level. I chatted with her about her influences and goals within the feminist movement, and how being a minority has affected her stance on it.
1. When exactly did you start getting interested in the field?
I think I fully became interested in feminism last year when I was a sabbatical officer at the University of Manchester Student's Union. Prior to that I had carried out work and looked into feminism, but never thought myself as a “feminist”. I don’t think I fully understood the concept. However, getting involved in student politics enabled me to gain a wider understanding of it and understand what it actually was. It helped that we had Jenni, the Women’s Officer in the SU and I was able to learn and benefit from [her, she] showed me how inclusive feminism is. Honestly, without her, I would not call myself a feminist today!
2. What opportunities did you have which allowed you to take action on feminism?
Having been part of the Islamic Society, organising events for sisters was essentially us providing a safe space for females on campus, and without realising, it was me taking action on feminism! The main form of action was Reclaim the Night March*. It was an amazing opportunity for me to take to the streets of Manchester alongside hundreds of others! It’s something that I would encourage everyone to take part in while they can. Last year was particularly amazing because we were able to set up a Muslim women’s block [in the march] for the first time and I’m so happy to see this block carrying on this year.
3. Do you think that being a minority affects your stance and execution of feminism?
Even within the feminist movement itself, there is a lot of criticism of “white feminism” and how the movement isn’t inclusive of minorities. This is something that I have become fully aware of, which is why creating the Muslim Women’s block at Reclaim the Night last year was just one way of ensuring that feminism was made accessible to those who wouldn’t normally feel comfortable advocating it.
Reclaim the Night: A women’s march held nationally to campaign against sexual-violence and fighting for women’s rights.
4. What alternative platforms do you use to promote women’s rights?
This year, alongside the NUS Women’s’ Officer Hareem Ghani, in my role as Vice President of FOSIS (Federation of Student Islamic Societies) we were able to provide even more opportunities for Muslim women in particular, from talks on Gendered Islamophobia to organising a Muslim Women’s Leadership Conference.
5. Because you have now graduated from UoM, do you feel any difference in the way feminism is regarded, both within yourself and within others around you?
I am definitely more aware of feminism now having graduated, and [am] considerably more aware of the complete need for it. The misconceptions [of feminism] are unfortunately rife wherever you go, and I think that is something we all need to tackle.
6. What do you hope to do in the future regarding women’s rights and freedoms?
I hope to get involved in the community wherever I am and support women’s rights and freedoms. I am hoping to go into law and would love to use my career to advocate for women’s rights and freedoms on an international scale as well. On a local level, I think there are a lot of things that many of us can do to help each other, whether that is organising spaces for women to get together or even just encouraging other women to pursue an education in a mentoring capacity. These are all little things that I hope that I will be able to contribute to in the future.
Massive thanks to Saffa for taking the time to answer my questions!
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