Over 70 percent of Seattle University students identify as female, and gender non-conforming and transgender people another three percent. This group is well over half the student population, yet there is no centralized space on campus that is committed to serving the needs of almost three quarters of the Seattle U student body. That is, until Haleema Bharoocha and a small group of committed women, gender non-conforming folks and transpeople have created the Gender Justice Center.
In the 1970s, Women’s Centers started erupting across college campuses throughout the United States due to the poltical climate, but many lost traction, leadership and subsequently funding throughout the 1980s.
Seattle University used to have a Women’s Justice Center during this time, but due to a lack of centralized leadership, the center was eventually defunded.
Haleema Bharoocha, Interim Director of the Gender Justice Center, was shocked that there is no Justice Center on campus today.
“The faculty have a Women’s Center here on campus, Seattle Central has one, almost every college in the nation has one,” said Bharoocha. “A lot of them have gotten defunded; basically just thrown out, and I think that speaks to a lot about how women are seen in society.”
Citing the current political climate, Bharoocha decided in December that it was imperative that women, gender non-conforming folks, and transpeople have a physical space to feel safe and form coalitions.
The group has since been working throughout winter quarter to create the mission and goals of the center.
The vision of the Gender Justice Center is to redefine social and heteronormative needs of our society by shattering conforming ideologies, and to foster the climate of inclusion for marginalized groups and promote the culture of self-empowerment through systemic change.
One of the main goals of the center is inclusivity. Bharoocha said in her research that many women’s centers are just for cisgendered women. The only other center that mirrors Seattle U’s Gender Justice Center is the University of California at Berkeley’s Gender Equity Resource Center.
“[Women’s Centers] don’t specify any inclusivity for any gender non conforming or transpeople, and I think that’s a major issue,” said Bharoocha. “It’s concerning, how so many of these people are cut out of our society. It’s not even the issue that they don’t exist: there’s so many gender non conforming and transwomen on our campus.”
The mission of the Gender Justice Center is to promote, empower and cater to the needs of women, gender non conforming, trans people and other marginalized groups—especially people of color. The center aims to create and foster communities through group healings, professional development and transformational leadership.
In creating the mission, the group followed the sociological model where when the most marginalized person in society receives justice, then everyone does.
“Not only are we giving people of color a platform that they deserve and have not been given elsewhere, but we are also following this model where when they get what they need, everyone else will too,” said Bharoocha. “We’re fighting for everyone’s liberation through that.”
Jessica Martinez, Junior Advisory Consultant at the Gender Justice Center, added that the space will be a place for students to learn and grow.
“What I really emphasize is that white students can come and ask questions, and not feel like they’re going to be put down for saying the wrong thing, especially if they’re admitting that they don’t know something,” said Martinez. “It’s really important to me that white, brown and black people bridge together and make that connection fluid, because I understand that sensitive issues are hard to confront others about, but regardless, that still leaves one person not knowing what they still don’t know.”
In addition to educational programming, the Gender Justice Center also plans to schedule self- care programming such as meditation and zine making to provide a place of support for this community.
The center also aims to complete larger projects, such as a People of Color Conference and a food pantry for those in need. The Gender Justice Center also hopes to eventually offer childcare services for Seattle U students who are also parents, which could also serve as an educational practicum for psychology majors.
The Gender Justice Center is scheduled to open in fall quarter of 2017, and is seeking commitment signatures from students who feel that the center is desperately needed on campus throughout the month of April.
Anna may be reached at