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Agent of change: student wins provincial award for actions and advocacy to end sexual violence

Friday, July 7, 2017

head shot of Sarah Wiley in front of treeThe Faculty of Arts proudly congratulates student Sarah Wiley for receiving Ontario’s Draw-The-Line Post-Secondary Sexual Violence Prevention Award, a new award to recognize students, student leaders, institutions, college and university community members for their outstanding efforts in sexual violence prevention.                       

Undergraduate Sarah Wiley, one of three recipients of the first Provincial Draw-The-Line Post-Secondary Sexual Violence Prevention Awards. Photo: Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance

A fourth-year psychology major in Arts (and minoring in sexuality, marriage, and family), Sarah recently finished her term as the Vice President Education for Waterloo’s federation of Students (FEDS). She has been an active student leader with the Women’s Centre and HeforShe at UWaterloo, and is a Board Member and Public Education Volunteer with the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region.

Sarah is just one three people to receive the inaugural Draw-The-Line Award, which is a partnership initiative by the Ontario Ministry of the Status of Women and White Ribbon. According to the media release, the awards recognize the actions and actors on campuses across Ontario that have developed innovative ways of addressing and re-defining sexual violence prevention programming on campus.

Beyond our own campus, Sarah has been a Board Member of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) during which she co-authored their 2016 Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Policy Paper. She has actively lobbied the Government of Ontario to adopt key policy recommendations of the paper. In June of 2017, a new bill incorporating a key sexual violence prevention proposal of this paper was tabled.

Sarah Wiley holding a sign that states - this is what a feminist looks like

Working with the Women's Centre. Photo: Federation of Students 

“I’m especially proud of the policy paper,” says Sarah. “OUSA is a student-run provincial lobby organization and as Feds Vice President Education I sat on their board of directors and got to write this paper with other incredible student leaders from across Ontario.” The paper includes key policy recommendations for the provincial government regarding preventing and responding to sexual violence on university campuses.

“One of the recommendations that I wrote in the paper was to include sexual violence prevention education in SmartServe bar staff training. This is a really important measure that would give front line staff the tools to prevent violence,” says Sarah.

“I advocated for this to members of provincial parliament and was very excited to work with MPP Peggy Sattler in her private member's bill 'The Safe Night Out Act'. The bill has now passed first reading and is moving through the legislative process and will hopefully become law.”

After completing her Honours BA, Sarah hopes to pursue graduate studies in social justice and advocacy. “It's my passion. I'm interested in careers relating to lobbying, advocacy, and activism.”

My work as Feds Vice President Education gave me the opportunity to lobby government and get hands on experience with advocacy and policy. I also got first had experience in feminist activism specifically through working with the Women's Centre on campus. All of these experiences and others that I've had at the University of Waterloo have made me really excited about pursuing a career in social justice advocacy. 

In winter 2017, Sarah represented students on an expert panel, Gendered Violence on Campus: Institutional Policy and Practice, alongside Professor Constance Backhouse, University of Ottawa Research Chair on Sexual Assault Legislation in Canada, as well as UWaterloo’s provost and associate provost of students.

“There is a lot of great work being done by students on UW campus in the area of sexual violence prevention,” Sarah stresses. “It is critical that student, staff and faculty all work together in a multi-faceted, intersectional approach. We need to listen to survivors and the research to make strategic steps to ending sexual violence on campus.”

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