Guneez & Hannah: All-female Student Government ticket
Student Government elections are taking place at the University of Texas at Austin this month. The President-Vice President candidate pair that has been making the most amount of noise on campus, and across the state, is that of Guneez Ibrahim and Hannah McMorris. This all-female leadership ticket has their sights set on bringing equality to marginalized communities, if elected. According to the campaign’s website, only 20% of the student body population actually participate in student government elections. Guneez & Hannah hope to connect with the communities that regularly do not vote and emphasize their opinions in future campus-wide decisions.
Though Guneez & Hannah work together in an almost synonymous fashion, their backgrounds are polar opposites. Guneez grew up in Lafayette, Louisiana, in what she described as a homogenous community. The only difference is that her community was homogenous with a culture that she did not represent as a daughter of Muslim, Pakistani immigrants. She mentioned that finding a role model that resembled her cultural background was difficult in a city like Lafayette that maintains little diversity. On the other hand, Hannah grew up in Houston, Texas and attended an international private school, a diverse institution in nature that represented over 65 nationalities. Both Guneez & Hannah did share at least one similar experience during their youth: the concept of taking all perspectives into consideration was impressed upon them from a young age.
Guneez & Hannah recalled experiences during their childhood that introduced them to politics. For Guneez, her father was involved in the political arena when he was still in Pakistan. During the2008 Presidential Election, Guneez remembers watching CNN with her father every night, even being allowed to stay home from school on Presidential Inauguration days to follow the event. Hannah also held a shared emphasis from her parents to be civically engaged. As an African-American woman, Hannah closely associates herself with marginalized communities. After President Barack Obama was elected into office, she remembers looking up to Michelle Obama, recalling that she had never seen another First Lady who was so involved in the well-being of the country. Guneez & Hannah were inspired by their parents to become involved in politics from a young age, leading them to the moment where they decided to run for Student Government executive office.
Guneez & Hannah were both motivated to run for office after witnessing a lack of, what they felt to be, appropriate representation in UT’s Student Government. They were tired of marginalized communities being “neutralized” – feeling like these communities had to limit the impact of their choices for fear of seeming “too outspoken” or playing identity politics. Both candidates hope to introduce a new wave of innate honesty with administration, allowing representatives from all communities to share opinions without judgement. If elected, Guneez & Hannah would work to expand menstrual equity efforts on campus, upgrade the student library center to meet higher capacities, install gender inclusive restroom facilities, and provide closed captioning for online courses. Guneez & Hannah hope that these initiatives will bridge the gap of access across marginalized student communities.
Guneez & Hannah believe that systemic barriers exist, limiting women from entering politics. Guneez believes that support for women is always conditional, stating “when [women] are speaking too quietly, [women] are told we aren’t elevating the community, but if [women] speak too loud, we are too much.” Guneez & Hannah have faced discrimination themselves, sharing that their campaign is commonly criticized much more than the other tickets with male candidates. This all-female ticket advises young women interested in politics to be unapologetic. Hannah believes that the best way for women to enter politics is to “not give in to the traditional way of thinking that things must be done a certain way”, claiming that fitting a stereotype of leadership is limiting in of itself.
Voting for Student Government Elections at UT will be open to students of the university from February 28thto March 1st at www.utexas.org/vote. You can learn more about the Guneez & Hannah campaign at their website here.