SOAS MENA Society:
Our society has, for the past few years, come in and out of existence and hasn’t had the strongest foundations. However, as of 2019 a team of students, including myself, decided we wanted to make a properly functioning society that would represent the MENA in SOAS and give students from across the region – and equally across the globe – a chance to celebrate and learn about Middle Eastern and North African heritage and culture. Last year was all about having as much fun with the society as possible and really making a name for ourselves, and we were successful in this mission (given what little time we had on campus).
We had amazing events that became extremely popular: the year kicked off with a meet and greet – rivalling all meet and greets – that ended up becoming an amazing party in the JCR, with MENA and non-MENA students alike, tying in to our society goal of raising awareness and sharing the rich tapestry of the MENA region. Our final big event was culture night, that we just fortunately managed to squeeze in before the combined tornado of strikes and COVID-19.
This year we want to replicate the diversity of events that we had last year (even if it is online for term one) and broaden our horizons as a society. This means hosting informative and hard-hitting events – we have some very interesting and innovative events and experiences coming up soon that will reveal a whole new side to the SOAS MENA society! Feel free to follow us on Instagram (@soasmena) for updates!
Noor El Huda A. Bashir
Decolonising our Minds:
Decolonising Our Minds is a student-led campaign that seeks to challenge the legacies of colonialism and racism both within and outside the university; this is done particularly by tackling structural inequalities within the institution and engaging with communities around London and the UK. Fundamentally, we hope to re-imagine the university and its role within its immediate surroundings and the world at large, which the current moment of crisis in higher education demonstrates the need for more than ever.
Some questions we want to explore are: What does decolonisation look like to you? Can the university truly be decolonised? What purpose does the university serve, and for whom?
The campaign is looking for new members and ideas, so please reach out through [email protected] or @decolonisingourminds on instagram or facebook for more information and how you can get involved!
This society was founded on the principle that non-white peoples should have a space outside of the whitewashed mainstream in which we can create and share art and, in turn, share both our common and unique experiences of racial injustice and difference. We create theatre about us that serves us, rather than any voyeuristic white audience. Collaborating on theatre in the age of COVID-19 has been difficult to say the least. We’re managing by staying in touch with each other as much as possible (through video calls and the like), trips to see live, socially-distanced theatre, and by regular meetings with our Play Book Club! We’re constantly planning for the time when we will be able to rehearse and perform again so watch this space! Follow us @pocdramasoas for more updates!
SOAS Women’s Rugby:
A controversial subject is always party to stereotypes; rugby is no exception. Some are good, and some are bad. Being completely honest, I can tell you that most are bad and it is a shame. SOAS rugby teams are somewhat peculiar in their uniqueness; the large melange of backgrounds and cultures are shared thanks to rugby, specifically SOAS rugby. Fortunately, through hard work and an open attitude, the Warriors do not reflect those stereotypes.
Our team is not focused on being overly successful or a meritocracy, nor are we the most competitive or efficient team on the pitch. SOAS rugby is more than that. This year, we are running two separate, gender-based teams. We believe that we are different from traditional rugby, as our two teams are training, learning and developing new skills as a whole together. To us, rugby is more than a team, it is about experienced teammates training new ones, and the mutual support we are able to create. Most of all, it is about having fun!
Playing rugby at SOAS has taught us how to put aside our differences; our team contributes to the empowerment of women, through learning a new sport and being able to train with men. The happy product of this is playing as a mixed team occasionally; as of last year, the men’s team helped members of the women’s team by sharing experience and training skills.
It is a shame that rugby has a bad reputation and a stigma around it. As a woman, I often think about the journey that rugby was for me and my teammates, who turned into friends and then eventually family. These are people you can count on, on and off the pitch. Having a teammate in rugby is different from other sports, due to the need for rucking. The concept of teammates in rugby is the essence of the sport – where to catch, where to position yourself, how you can protect them and in turn feel protected.
The most important thing in rugby, and especially rugby played in the midst of a global pandemic, is the safety of the players. To keep our players safe, the committee wrote a risk assessment form and is following a very strict code for training. This includes sanitising balls every fifteen minutes, and registering players on our track and trace form. Another challenge that sprouted from the pandemic is the lack of a Freshers Fayre. We faced massive issues regarding recruitment this year, as we were not allowed to advertise any events in person affiliated with SOAS rugby. However, we persevered, and hit a good number of recruits, who are already playing! A lot of people joined as beginners – they are my favourites; entering the team with no experience, and feeling nervous to go to their first training. The result of this, however, was finding teammates, people that care for them, and forming a rugby family. As we are SOAS, we come from all around the world. We have different languages, different traditions, cultures and religions, but we are a big united family – on and off the pitch.
We wish students a very good start to the year in these extraordinary circumstances. If we have inspired you, and if you ever want to give rugby a try, please do feel free to contact us and take part in the big family that forms SOAS rugby.
Photo Caption: The SOAS Crest, representing one of the fundamental values of the institution. Credit: Heraldry-Wiki.