Campus women’s centers are places where women and men can find information about gender-equality issues and events. Their mandates are generally to heighten awareness of gender inequality issues both on campus and within the surrounding communities. They also organize and coordinate events and campaigns that highlight gender equality and social justice issues.
Women’s centers also serve as a place where women can get information on various health issues relating to women. Topics include abuse, bisexual and lesbian women, childcare, menstruation and menopause, reproductive choices, sexual assault, and violence against women. Counselors in the center will assist female students in a confidential manner and, when necessary, collaborate with health officials in the school’s health services office.
The staff at the women’s center can also make referrals to physicians for women’s health issues, and also put students in touch with the necessary people for childcare, housing, and other parenting issues.
Women’s centers often work in partnership with several community-based organizations to reduce women’s poverty. Together they support community-based research, share information with the wider surrounding community, and present policy alternatives to increase women’s economic security. They may be able to mitigate financial hardship for women by informing women about women-specific scholarships and bursaries, and assist with the student loan application process. As well, housing for single mothers on-campus may be available for women who cannot afford to live off-campus.
Women’s centers often have a variety of library, archival, and reference material on women’s issues, available to all students. The library will includes books, magazines, journal articles and reference materials. Topics can range from feminist theory to women and work to women and spirituality.
Women’s centers also offer a variety of free products to students and staff, including condoms, lubricant, pads, infant diapers, and tampons which are available to those who need them on an individual basis.
Conferences and outreach activities
Women’s centers will often organize and host women’s-issues conferences in health, poverty, abuse, and workplace inequality. Workshops are also organized on a regular basis, and are made available to all students and the surrounding community in general. These workshops may be given in collaboration with the school’s Equity or Human Rights office.
Center volunteers are trained in crisis intervention and are knowledgeable concerning the range of issues facing many women. Volunteers and counselors are available for informal peer support and can provide referrals to various campus and community services. A help line is often advertised and staffed to assist women who are the victim of a sexual crime, or would like to report physical or emotional abuse.
Other campus resources
The campus women’s center also makes available a listing of campus resources, such as the local RCMP office, legal aid, and WalkSafe. As well, academic advising specific to women (eg. single mothers) is also available on a confidential basis. Ministry offices are sometimes also housed in the women’s center.
Given the same range of issues that are common between the two, the LBGTQ center and the women’s center will sometimes be housed together, or be combined into one center, with the same staff offering assistance in both cases. Centers representing other minority groups, such as the Aboriginal center, will often have close ties with the women’s center.
Department of Women’s studies
Schools that offer programs in Women’s studies (some offer Arts degrees with a major or minor in this subject) will often house their program in the school’s Women’s center. Students can study the past and current status, the experiences, and the contributions of women in society. They also focus on some of issues prevalent today such as globalization, international development, post-colonialism, and minority rights.
Additional topics studied include violence and inequality in gender, race, ethnicity, class, and sexual orientation. As well, the international trafficking of women, the marginalization and exclusion of women in cultural, economic, legal, political, social and health contexts is studied.