‘One university, one body, one unity’: Queen’s Student Activists, part seven

‘The Journal’ chats with SAG member Husna Ghanizada

Ghanizada is hopeful for a future where students can embrace their true selves.

This article discusses sexual assault and may be triggering for some readers. The Kingston Sexual Assault Centre’s 24-hour crisis and support phone line can be reached at 613-544-6424 / 1-800-544-6424.

When Husna Ghanizada, HealthSci ’23, started at Queen’s, she was already thinking of how to bring justice to this campus.

“I come from an Afghan background, so growing up I often encountered patriarchal comments—and surprisingly most of them from women themselves,” Ghanizada said in an interview with The Journal.

While she didn’t grow up taking part in traditional forms of advocacy like protests or public speaking, Ghanizada got her start by challenging patriarchal norms within her own home and community.

“One of the biggest challenges that I have noticed is that many people do not realize the importance of addressing the cultural pieces that support [gender-based violence] (GBV). We often disregard that tolerance of the behaviours that feed into rape culture is also detrimental.”

As a Queen’s student, Ghanizada has focused many of her activist efforts on preventing GBV in the pursuit of diversity, equity, and justice. She currently works with the GBV Awareness and Bystander Intervention Program (GBVP) and sits on the Student Advisory Group (SAG). The bulk of her work has taken place within the pandemic.

“A crisis like [COVID-19] is not the cause of violent behaviour and it definitely does not justify it, but it did increase the risks of GBV,” she said. “Working with the GBVP during this time was very important to me because it helped me raise awareness about the importance of bystander intervention.”


Part of Ghanizada’s work with SAG has involved responding to the concerns brought to light by the Queen’s Student Experience Survey (SES). The survey resulted in the Campus Climate Report, which detailed significant amounts of harassment, discrimination, and sexual violence on at Queen’s.

READ MORE: Queen’s releases 2021 Campus Climate snapshot report

“Many students feel the need to hide some aspects of their identity to fit in,” Ghanizada said.

“Being part of a marginalized group myself—as a foreign-born, Muslim woman of colour who immigrated to Canada at a young age—I understand how frustrating and draining discrimination can be.”

SAG works to use insights from the SES to address negative student experiences. The Campus Climate Report, according to Ghanizada, is an important first step—it names and identifies the extent of the issues facing marginalized Queen’s students.

“Sitting on the Advisory Group was a transformative experience for me because not only was it reassuring for me to see that ‘yes, our institution is listening to student voices and acting on the raised concerns,’ but it also allowed me to be a part of that solution.”

The SES has also been a crucial part of Ghanizada’s work with the GBVP. Student survey results guide the GBVP’s initiatives, with one of the program’s main goals being to increase awareness of training and information available to prevent sexual violence. As it stands, only 30 per cent of students have received relevant information on the topic.

“We are making content updates to allow for more engagement with topics relevant to privilege, identity, intersectionality, and the supports available to students, as these gaps have been highlighted in the survey findings,” Ghanizada said.


In her home and beyond, Ghanizada has always been passionate about breaking the cycle of gender-based violence. According to her, one of the biggest challenges in doing so is addressing seemingly small actions that enable GBV.

“Just because something is said verbally or written—misogynistic banners, a sexist comment—does not mean it is not as impactful physical harm,” Ghanizada said.

“In other words, just because a person doesn’t raise their hand on another doesn’t mean that they are not contributing to rape culture. We need to break the cycle that normalizes these issues, otherwise we risk the escalation of these behaviours.”

Of course, Ghanizada’s passion doesn’t mean the work doesn’t take a toll. As a Muslim woman, she leans heavily on her faith to ease the burden of her labour.

“In Islam, we are given the analogy of Muslims being as one body in their mutual kindness, sympathy, and compassion—when one limb suffers, the entire body responds with wakefulness and fever [and feels discomfort],” she said.

“I like to use a similar analogy for us students. When any of us experiences pain due to injustice and discrimination, it should trigger a response in all of us. One university, one body, one unity.”


Grateful for the passionate student leaders around her, self-reflection has been a powerful aspect of Ghanizada’s path as a student activist. It’s been just as important for her to recognize her privilege as it’s been to recognize how her communities may be treated unfairly at an institution like Queen’s.

“The pillars of equality and education go hand in hand,” she said.

“I am privileged to be an educated and empowered young Afghan woman and to have a say in groups such as the SAG, but I cannot feel complete satisfaction when thinking of other students—queer, trans, Black, Indigenous, those with a disability—across the campus who may feel as though they have been left behind.”

For Ghanizada, the goal of student activism is to works towards building spaces where each student can “express and embrace their true selves without the fear of discrimination.”

“A brighter future for Queen’s students looks like a safer space where students have a loud and clear voice in shaping administrative policy,” she said.

“I hope that when the SES is conducted next time, the results will show even a slight improvement in student experiences.”

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