Lola Olufemi has a long career in student politics behind herJohannes Hjorth

Lola Olufemi, an English finalist at Selwyn, is the current Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Women’s representative for CUSU’s Women's Campaign. A significant and outspoken figure in feminist and BME politics across the University, she campaigned for the creation of a BME Officer role on Selwyn JCR, and subsequently became the first person to hold it. Olufemi explained that “I’ve been doing it ever since I was in my first year, and now I’m in my third year, I have a lot of institutional memory about what happens, especially with women students, and especially with the Women’s Campaign.”

Olufemi spent last year as the facilitator of FLY, a network for women and non-binary people of colour, and her brand of feminism goes beyond traditional ideas of activism. As well as stressing the intersectionality of feminist issues, including in a column published in this paper, she has written about the importance of radical self-care for the Women’s Campaign, calling it “an act of self-preservation in a world that wants to kill me.” She was keen to point out that self-care is neither selfish nor passive, but instead drawn “from a radical feminist principle” that has a double purpose: both as a “tool for political organising,” and a necessary act of survival “in an institution where you have historically not belonged.”

One of the subjects that Olufemi touched on repeatedly in the interview is Cambridge’s updated sexual assault policy: “working alongside the University and analysing the data it has about sexual assault is really important.” As Women’s Officer, she said she would seek to set up an “art-piece” which confronted the issue, shedding light on the “marginalised” victims of sexual assault.

During the interview, she also referred to the persistent gender attainment gap. She professed to be “really excited” to get to grips with an issue which has “become this thing we feel like we can’t change.” Her proposed solutions are far-reaching and fundamental: “it comes with expanding our reading lists, it comes with training supervisors and looking into how marking happens and looking into different styles of writing.”

A significant part of her campaign revolves around her interest in decolonising the Cambridge curriculum, following similar efforts made at SOAS last year. “There are loads of pockets of thought that we miss out on when we rely on Eurocentric, canonical ideas in our learning,” she explained, citing the “movement to find other sources of thought” she has observed amongst students. Olufemi spoke at a ‘Liberate My Degree Week’ panel earlier this month, and said she hopes to promote “more expansive reading lists,” but also stressed the importance of decolonising the curricula of non-humanities subjects.

Asked how she felt about the fact she is running unopposed for the role of Women’s Officer, Olufemi, a self-proclaimed “strong-willed person,” is firm. She admits that “I have a lot more to prove,” but believes her long-standing commitment to feminist student activism speaks to ample qualifications: “I want to create a space where people’s politics can grow and learn, because that’s exactly what the Women’s Campaign for me is and what it was for me in first year.”

Elections 2017

Comprehensive elections coverage

The latest news and analysis on the CUSU Elections, all in one place.
Visit Varsity’s Elections 2017 hub.

Sponsored links