By Laura Quinn
The bi-annual Students’ Union Sexual Health Awareness and Guidance (SHAG) Week took place late last month.
This year’s SHAG week events, hosted virtually in line with current Covid-19 restrictions focused on key issues impacting on the sexual health and wellbeing of students, including sexual self-confidence, contraception, STIs, safe online sex and sexual education reform.
“We had a brilliant SHAG week, we had a solid 30-40 at every event which I think is even more than the events usually get when they’re physically on campus,” said Students’ Union Vice-President/Welfare and Equality Officer Róisín Nic Lochlainn.
“It was so wonderful to see that young people actually want to get involved and learn, especially when it comes to the sex education and consent side of things.”
A panel discussion looking at sexual education reform in the Irish education system took place on Wednesday, February 17th. A recent report found that relationships and sexuality education taught in Irish schools was outdated and in need of a major overhaul. Concerns were also raised over how a schools’ ethos may influence what is taught to pupils. These issues were discussed by a panel consisting of Amy Burke of End IBSA Ireland; author of Republic of Shame Caelainn Hogan; representatives from Active* Consent and Galway Rape Crisis Centre; and NUI Galway student Róisín O’Connor.
“We still have a long way to go in Irish society in terms of breaking down the taboo of talking about sex. We want our students to be educated about their sexual safety and this should begin in the school system,” explained Students’ Union President C.
“After many of us not even hearing the mention of sex in schools and with Ireland’s history of shame when it comes to the topic of sex, it is so so important that Student Unions’ around the country continue taking this no-shame, fun approach and that most importantly students enjoy it and take something away from it,” added Róisín.
Róisín also praised the Gnéas le Grace Workshop that took place on Tuesday February 16th, which was an interactive workshop focused on body positivity.
“This [body positivity] is one of the things I really want to focus on while I’m in the Students’ Union. Especially with Covid, our counselling service has seen an increase in eating disorders and we are all stuck at home with mirrors, cameras, and our own thoughts all day.”
As expected, it was the student favourite Sex Toy Bingo that stole the show on the 19th. An impressive €790 was raised for the SU Charities – Galway Rape Crisis Centre, Galway Autism Partnership and Helplink Mental Health – from ticket sales. The event, hosted by comedian Steve Bennett, had 196 attendees and 34 sex toys from SexSiopa.ie were given out as prizes.
“We’re all about encouraging people to practice safe, pleasurable sex and what better way to encourage it by making it fun? Especially during Covid we would prefer if students would learn how to love themselves sexually instead of meeting up with others, so free toys were great for that.”
More information regarding sexual health and wellbeing can be found on the SU website: https://services.su.nuigalway.ie/site/view/2379