Equity In/Action, the University of Waterloo 2017 HeforShe Writing Contest Anthology, was recently published and is now available to students. This anthology is filled with selected submissions from the UW community on their experiences with gender equity.

According to HeForShe IMPACT 10x10x10 Lead Diana Perry, Equity In/Action is “a joint initiative with the Writing Centre and Bookstore to reach out across campus to solicit stories/experiences in the form of poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction from our students, staff, faculty and alumni regarding gender equity. We wanted to hear about challenges people have faced, but also their hopes, dreams, and directions for the future.”

The anthology started as a contest as part of UW’s involvement in the UN Women’s HeForShe campaign and IMPACT 10x10x10.

Winners of the 2017 HeforShe contest were Michelle Pressé for creative non-fiction; Sarasvathi Kannan, Emily Schroeder, an anonymous submitter for poetry; and Jessica Needham for fiction.

Upon winning the fiction category, Needham was confused; she had written the story on a whim and didn’t expect to win.

“In the past, I’ve written some pretty untraditional stuff and this time I decided to write something that would cater to the tastes of the anthology more than something I enjoyed writing,” Needham said. “When I won, it made me sit back and look at what I had been writing before and to take stock of which story had finally been deemed ‘worth something’. For a while, the win made me write stories that were disingenuous to what I normally enjoy writing.”

While Needham’s story was not her usual flare, it stood for the ideal of campus inclusivity and acknowledged the imperfect track record of the university.

“To me, this is a future where the competitive, cut-throat, almost corporation-like attitude at UW softens. I think the competitive ‘startup culture’ is a strong asset of UW, but hell if it doesn’t completely wear down the bright freshmen who arrive in September,” Needham explained. “In the past few years there have been many debates regarding the support services at UW not meeting the demand of students seeking help, so in this story students are there to support each other and provide real, applicable help. It’s not their job per se, but I think places like the Women’s Centre and Glow help fill a hole in the university with students who are working to create a community…”

This year’s contest looks at the theme of intersectionality, exploring the way in which gender intersects with various identity markers. According to Perry, “this year, we wanted to ‘drill down’ by taking an intersectional lens, which we know is so important to understanding the full scope of gendered experiences.”

“We are very excited by the anthology, and encourage all Waterloo students, faculty, staff and alumni to participate. There is a $500 prize for each category winner. The winners will also be invited to attend our International Women’s Day Dinner where we will give out the anthology,” Perry said.

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