This past Sunday, McMaster finally gave the green light to formally establish a Women and Gender Equity Network on campus.
The SRA vote conducted on Mar. 30 made the news official — McMaster would play host to a women’s centre for the first time since 1985.
The pilot project is set to launch this coming September will be funded by the MSU.
The approval of the WGEN was set in motion in October of 2012 when the SRA struck an Ad-Hoc committee to look further scrutinize the need for such a centre.
Elise Milani, Chair of The Ad-Hoc Committee and SRA Humanities until last November, led the committee and initiated a survey in which 78 percent of the 237 student respondents indicated that they would make use of WGEN by seeking counseling or to refer information to a friend.
Research unearthed by the committee indicated the rift in services that the Student Health Education Centre, the Student Wellness Centre, and the Queer Students Community Centre, were able to provide in relation to sexual assault counseling or gender issues.
The results of the survey and additional findings led to a motion being passed at an SRA meeting of Mar. 24, 2013 that formally recognized the need as pointed out by the Ad-Hoc Committee.
In retrospect, Milani says that a lot of work needed to be invested in order for the need for the centre to be seen as real.
“There was a strong need for statistics. Everyone needed to know the number of women that get assaulted on campus, or face misogyny, or sexism. We were able to prove through the survey that a significant amount of people don’t feel safe.”
Milani says that she found it hard to justify not voting for the centre, as she maintained the opinion that “If one person gets assaulted on campus, that’s one too many.”
Emotions ran high following the approval, with Milani admitting that she shed a few tears on the spot.
“It was really exciting, because we weren’t sure what to expect. I didn’t walk in there expecting for the best but I was hoping for it. There was a nice sigh of relief when we got it, but there is still so much work to be done.”
Members of the committee are continuing to explore how they will go about obtaining office space, full-time staff, and counselors to create a professional atmosphere.
“Once we elect the new VP Admin and the new executive board, then we can hire WGEN liason which was created to be a direct contact between the Centre and the university,” said Milani.
The Centre will also seek to cater to students seeking trauma-based counseling.