A Programme that Engenders and Empowers
If the four years at university mean an eye-opening period that positively disrupts one’s beliefs and value system, then the Bachelor of Social Science in Gender Studies at CUHK should approach the quintessential undergraduate programme.
The two-year programme was first established in 2015. Emma Yip is among the first batch of its graduates. She can personally testify to the shock treatment she received in the past two years: ‘I took an introductory course on gender studies two years ago and came to realize that gender issues were much more complex than I had previously conceived. It’s not as simple as either male or female. The spectrum in between is very wide and fluid. I became interested in gender studies because of its interdisciplinary nature that touches on history, culture, anthropology, psychology, politics, media and law. The programme is comprehensive, multidimensional and flexible. I therefore chose to enroll in it.’
Prof. Helene Fung, Director of the programme, said, ‘This programme develops students’ sensitivity in social diversity, equality and relations between different stakeholders. The programme contributes to a better society as a whole. As an interdisciplinary programme, the students will be fully exposed to a variety of disciplines, from sociology, cultural studies, anthropology, psychology to literature and so on.’
The programme admits about 27 students each year, and specifically targets those demonstrating an enthusiasm for the subject, critical thinking, clarity of thought, analytical mind and communication skills. Professor Fung said, ‘We expect that a prospective student is curious and enthusiastic about exploring society and culture in a way that might surprise them, who are open to new possibilities and views that they might find challenging, and eager to have a deeper understanding of different stakeholders through dialogue so as to help build a more just and equal society.’
She also added, ‘As a relatively small programme, the relationship between students and teachers is close. It helps the students to build their peer network easily.’ Emma agreed: ‘In the course of learning I have met many friends sharing the same curiosity and value system. We initiated and participated in many activities such as the festivals and parades that are related to gender education and rights. Since we share common interests but come from different backgrounds and hence would approach the same issue from different perspectives, our learning has been enriched by these cross-currents in thoughts.’
When asked about her most valuable experience in the past two years, Emma replied, ‘It has to be the practicum in the summer. I worked in an organization that services the women in a community. I spent the two summer months studying what constraints a community which was designed with little regard for women has put on the lives of women living there, and how capitalism and professionalism have marginalized women’s knowledge, crafts and experience. I had observed in close range how social norms and gender awareness have affected how the women look at themselves and re-thought issues like the use of public space, the relationship between women and the community’s economy, and the needs of the caregivers. The practicum experience was precious in that I was able to put theories learned in the classroom into daily life.’
In addition to the experience above, Emma also mentioned that the Gender Studies Centre would from time to time hold forums, public lectures, seminars and workshops on gender issues that would broaden the students’ vision and understanding of gender and related issues. Contacts with gender concern groups from Hong Kong, Asia and the world have put the students in the frontiers of the field even before their graduation.
Students opting for internship as their capstone experience will be matched with partnering organizations according to their interests, skills and availability. At present, 12 NGOs or projects have offered internship places. The internship opportunities will be extended to the business sectors in future.
The graduates are well-equipped to meet the increasing demand for gender-aware personnel in the civil service, the statutory bodies, human resources departments in the business sector, education professions as well as social services. The graduates are also trained in intersectional thinking and are able to conduct quantitative and qualitative research into complex social issues that simultaneously cut across gender, age, race, ethnicity and sexuality.
They could choose to embark on a teaching profession, business, social and civil services. They may also consider pursuing further studies in sociology, cultural studies, etc.
Published: Summer 2017