Women’s health advocacy club gets the cold shoulder

Words by Michelle Roylance

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Credit: iStock. Pictured: The yellow ribbon for Endometriosis Awareness Month.

“Unfortunately, your expression of interest has been rejected.”

This was the message the prospective Endometriosis and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Society received yesterday morning from the AUU, to inform them that their application to be an AUU-affiliated club had not been approved.

Endometriosis occurs when endometrial tissue grows outside of the uterus (hint: it’s not supposed to). PCOS arises when cysts grow on the ovaries, and it is not uncommon to be affected by both simultaneously. These conditions come with multiple symptoms that are disruptive, uncomfortable, and sometimes devastating. However, these terms do not get circulated enough in mainstream education and, when seeing a medical professional, are often misdiagnosed.

In 2016–17, 34'200 Australian women were hospitalized with endometriosis, with 4 in 5 of those aged between 15–44. Up to 50% of women who experience it may develop infertility. PCOS affects 12–21% of women of reproductive age around the world.

While the conditions differ in their symptoms, irregular, painful periods and fertility issues are a common symptom of both, along with chronic and debilitating aches and pains.

The Clubs Committee’s reasoning was that the proposed club was “not unique enough” in its object and purpose. The Committee proposed that the EPCOS Society collaborate with the Women’s Collective, an affiliate of the SRC since early 2020, and the subject of an ongoing campaign for AUU affiliation. This would grant it access to considerably larger financial grants and physical resources than are offered by the SRC.

Furthermore, the EPCOS Society were encouraged to appeal the decision so that it may be reviewed by the 2021 Clubs Committee, who stepped into their roles on December 1st.

Women’s clubs face uphill battle

The 2021 Clubs Committee is comprised of AUU President Angela Qin and Board Director Andrew Lai, who were elected by the Progress-majority Board. Nick Birchall and Will Broderick were elected to remaining two seats by AUU Club Presidents. Birchall and Broderick have voiced their support for women’s issue clubs on-campus, potentially indicating future deadlocks in the Clubs Committee.

Arabella Wauchope, who made the application, and is currently the President of the Adelaide Uni Labor Club, highlighted the importance of the club in raising awareness of only one of the significant threats to women’s health:

“Unless there is something substantially wrong with a club application, good practice should be encouraging the biggest club space possible.

“Endo and PCOS is incredibly common and undiagnosed in young women. Uni students will likely have been taught that significant period pain is normal but we know that’s not the case.

“With 3 different women’s clubs being rejected you can’t hide blatant sexism any longer.”

Wauchope, of course, makes reference to the two clubs previously mentioned, as well as the Pro-Choice Club, who remain unaffiliated despite the approval of the LifeChoice Adelaide club. LifeChoice describes itself as a club which aims “to promote the dignity of human life from conception to natural death, through reasonable and informed discussion”.

The Women’s Collective was rejected on similar terms to the EPCOS Society; in the judgement of the 2019 Clubs Committee, “Women are already represented enough by other clubs on campus i.e. Women in STEM & Women in Space… [we] feel their proposed activities such as Advocacy/Activism, Education and Celebrating Women is not unique or necessary with no need for this club.”

At this stage, it is unclear what path the Endometriosis and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Society will take. On Dit will report on the events as they unfold.

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Adelaide University student magazine since 1932. Edited by Ivan Bucalo, Stasi Kapetanos, Isobel Moore, and Michelle Roylance. Get in touch: onditmag@gmail.com

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