This year, GENDER.ED and the Edinburgh University Students Association (EUSA) came together for the launch of the Undergraduate Feminist Trailblazers Awards and Blog Series. The Awards seek to recognise and celebrate the contribution of undergraduate students from the University of Edinburgh who are furthering the cause of feminism through important and impactful work. The judges were GENDER.ED Steering Group member and ‘Understanding Gender in the Contemporary World’ course convenor, Dr Meryl Kenny, EUSA Vice President Education, Tara Gold and GENDER.ED’s Interim Director, Dr Radhika Govinda.
The judges awarded Pia Wahi-Singh, a 3rd year Medicine student at the University of Edinburgh, an Honorary Mention in this year’s Undergraduate Feminist Trailblazers Series. Pia has been President of the Association of Women Surgeons Edinburgh since its formation in 2019, leading its efforts to reduce gender-bias in surgery and increase accessibility. Within this role, Pia has co-organised a number of large-scale events with a global audience, including the European Association of Women Surgeons Conference. The judges commended Pia for her role in this society which plays a ‘lead role in raising awareness about reducing gender bias in medicine.’ Pia’s trailblazing efforts, however, do not stop at AWS Edinburgh. Outside of her role as President, Pia is co-founder of Diverse Unified Real Global Action, an international NGO that aims to remove barriers to education and health in the Jammu and Kashmir regions of India. Through this NGO, she has demonstrated a dedication to improving the lives of marginalised people by opening a sewing school for women to attain vocational training and achieve financial independence. Pia spreads her knowledge and passion through writing blogs and authoring panels that highlight pioneers for women’s rights in medicine. Overall, the judges consider Pia’s remarkable commitment to gender equity worthy of an Honourable Mention in the Undergraduate Feminist Trailblazers Awards 2022.
Here’s what Pia had to say in response to some questions posed to her by GENDER.ED’s Undergraduate Communications and Events intern, Lauren Galligan:
What motivates you in your work to further the cause of feminism?
For me, “furthering the cause of feminism” simply means standing up for myself and my own identity as a woman. I am very fortunate to have had very strong women role models in my life who never held me to a different set of standards because I am a woman. This has helped me develop self-confidence and given me the courage to engage in advocacy for gender equality. When I started learning more about the surgical profession and began shadowing in surgical operating rooms in medical school, I was dismayed to realize that gender bias– conscious and unconscious– still exists in a space as responsive to change as the surgical theatre! As a young woman and a medical student who would like to pursue surgery, I feel it very important to engage in the dialogue that encourages equal accessibility of all people to this field. This motivates me in my role as the President of the Association of Women Surgeons Edinburgh.
What would be your advice to any other students and non-students wanting to get involved in similar work to you?
There are many ways one can be a feminist. To me, one can be a feminist and promote feminist values in the way they conduct themselves and interact with those around them, namely, by keeping equality and inclusion at the forefront of their interactions. For anyone who would like to get involved in more formal activities, I would encourage them to look for clubs and societies around them, and make use of social media. If someone would like to get involved in the Association of Women Surgeons Edinburgh specifically, we can be contacted through our Facebook page.
Who else, outside of yourself, do you consider an inspirational ‘Feminist Trailblazer’, and why?
Without sounding cliché, I consider my mother to be my biggest inspiration and example of a ‘Feminist Trailblazer.’ She was determined to pursue graduate level education after college and was not deterred from this role despite the lack of support from her family in India. Her academic prowess led to her being awarded a prestigious scholarship that allowed her to move from India to the UK to pursue her PhD at Oxford. This is just one example of how her strong will has helped her surpass many barriers. This resilience and mentality has always been an incredible inspiration to me.