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Monday 24 January 2022 12:29pm

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Rachel Tombs

Rachel Tombs, BA(Hons): For contribution to sexual violence education in our communities.

Rachel is committed to lifting the silence about sexual violence and preventing such violence. Her research for her MA thesis is on the topic of sexual violence in marriage. Rachel runs workshops to raise awareness as a peer facilitator at the University's Te Whare Tāwharau initiative and she has been an executive member and volunteer for Thursdays in Black Otago.

Rachel organised 'Stories of Faith, Hope and Love' and 'Tenx9' events celebrating the intersections between faith and LGBTQ* Pride during the Dunedin Pride Festivals in 2018 and 2019. She is an elder at Knox Church Dunedin and member of the Student Christian Movement. She participated in the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women as part of the Presbyterian Women Aotearoa delegation in 2017.

What was your reaction to receiving the award, and what does it mean to you?

It was really lovely to be nominated for this award by people I am inspired by. The Otago student community should be very proud of our history of activism on sexual violence. There are so many students and staff who invest time and energy in this work and it's a real privilege to be recognised as one of them.

What have you done since graduation and what are you doing now?

After graduating with a BA (Hons) I continued on to an MA at Otago. My thesis focused on feminist activism and the criminalisation of marital rape in New Zealand. Currently, I am working for New Zealand Red Cross in the Dunedin migration team, training and coordinating Refugee Support Volunteers.

What inspires and motivates you to work in the areas you are involved with?

The writing of 20th century feminist writers and community organisers has been an inspiration to me in my involvement with sexual violence prevention. The opening of Te Whare Tāwharau and the growth of Thursdays in Black are two great examples of exciting progress on our campus in recent years. There are so many fantastic people in our community working hard on this issue. I find that pretty motivating as each of us has a role to play in sexual violence prevention.

What are the highlights of your time at Otago so far, and has it helped you in your career path?

I have been lucky enough to have the most amazing supervision team for my MA, Professor Angela Wanhalla, Professor Sonja Tiernan and Dr Jane Adams. Their mentorship in feminist history has been a real highlight. I've had a wonderful experience at Otago and am very grateful to the History programme students and staff for that.

My Otago arts degree has taught me many valuable skills – critical thinking, writing and presenting, constructing an argument, and problem solving, to name a few! I'll hold on tight to these skills.

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