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Students driving equality; marriage equality, reproductive health and LGBTi+ rights


Aisling Cusack

Vice President of Equality and Citizenship, Union of Students in Ireland

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) represent 374,000 students across Ireland. Founded in 1959, the USI have always been at the forefront of equality campaigns in Ireland, calling out inequalities and striving to eradicate the forms of marginalisation in our campuses, societies and communities.

We are proud of our diverse membership and work on behalf of students to address the injustices happening around us. The history of the student movement is a proud one as the USI have actively campaigned for decades on issues such as marriage equality, reproductive healthcare in Ireland, rights for the LGBT+ community and equity of access to education.

In 1992, USI Pink Training was established and has since grown to be the largest LGBT+ training event of its kind in Europe. The event brings together hundreds of LGBT+ students and their allies to get informed about their rights, their access to power and what they can do to bring about positive change in Irish society.

We published Foclóir Aiteach/The Queer Dictionary

The USI campaign for transgender healthcare, gender-neutral bathrooms and published An Foclóir Aiteach/The Queer Dictionary. The Foclóir Aiteach was launched alongside the Transgender Equality Network of Ireland (TENI) and BelongTo as a project that would allow everyone to recognise themselves and be able to describe themselves in the Irish language.

Empowering women to lead

Gender equality and representation for women has always been an important issue for USI. Despite forming a majority of students in higher and further education, women are underrepresented in positions in educational institutions and students’ unions. Women’s representation in colleges and students’ unions is vital to women’s equality and to overcoming the inequality and discrimination that women face in our society.

Recognising this lack of female representation in both student politics and politics as a whole, USI initiated the Women Lead project, which works to increase female participation and representation in student politics and leadership roles in student societies. The project supports and empowers self-defining women candidates to run for election and has been running for four years.

Students for Choice

A recent victory for the student movement – and Ireland – was the successful repeal of the eighth Amendment of Bunreacht na hÉireann. The USI have campaigned for rights to reproductive healthcare for decades, with student officers fighting for access to information on abortion services in the early 1990s and being dragged through the courts as a consequence.

As an all-island organisation, the USI will continue to campaign for full reproductive healthcare services until anyone who needs an abortion in Ireland, north or south of the border, can get the healthcare they need as they need it.

Supporting students with disabilities

In 2018, the first USI National Conference for Students Living with Disabilities was held in Dublin. This event brought together students from around the country who come from a spectrum of experiences. USI partnered with the Association for Higher Education Access and Disability (AHEAD) for this conference and the Vice President for Equality and Citizenship is a board member of the organisation.

Through engagement with students with disabilities, and working with leading organisations, USI will continue to push for a more universal design learning approach in our third-level institutions that will benefit the growing diversity of the student population.

You can learn more about USI and the work we do at: http://usi.ie/

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