Rahimah Faiq is a 19-year-old, Pakistani-American, feminist woman who doesn’t let labels hinder her from operating within her own ideals of justice. This passionate collegiette is constantly fighting for the rights of her local and global communities. As an advisor to the Permanent Mission of Pakistan to the United Nations, she saw little value in her role.
So Rahimah decided to create power in her own system. She left her previous role at the UN (though she has now rejoined them in a new capacity!) and was elected first female president of the student body in five years at Rutgers. A survivor of assault, this empowered collegiette has introduced an affirmative consent policy to be considered by her university. She has also hosted a sexual assault policy analysis event with SAFER, been a coordinator for a national Take Back the Night event at Rutgers and lobbied to U.S. senators regarding sexual violence on college campuses.
Rahimah is an activist because she cares deeply for those around her, and she will never stop fighting for the rights of women everywhere.
Name: Rahimah Faiq
College: Rutgers University - Newark
Major(s): Criminal Justice; Minors in Psychology and International Affairs
Graduation Year: 2017
Hometown: Rutherford, NJ
Instagram Handle: r.faiq
Her Campus: What do you consider your greatest achievement to date?
Rahimah Faiq: My greatest achievement to date is being a safe space for more than one someone who survived brutal sexual assaults. Being there as a clearing for their pain and sharing. “You were a victim once but you are a survivor forever,” a proverb I have created to get me through the toughest of times I face and am happy to pass on to those who share their tough times with me.
HC: What do you think is the biggest factor that led you to where you are today?
RF: My parents’ investment in my education. They have always exposed me to new cultures, ways of being and taught me that right from wrong isn’t all that black and white; it all depends on the tint of the glasses you wear.
HC: What are you working on right now?
RF: Right now I am putting together different proposals and ways to further sexual assault education on my campus in Newark as well as improving the current policies the university has. We currently have no mandatory, comprehensive course about consent, assault, sex or dating violence for incoming freshmen. Considering the fact that Rutgers has been chosen by the White House as a starting point on sexual assault statistical research I find it appalling that the university as a whole, all three campuses united, is unwilling to redefine sexual consent in the terms of Affirmative Consent, like the UCs have done on the West Coast. However, Rutgers University - Newark has endorsed Affirmative Consent campus-wide by efforts of the Student Governing Association. I want a holistic approach to be taken on sexual assault education. After seeing the sexual assault and violence prevention work of my colleagues and I through the Student Governing Association, the administration has finally put together a campaign to handle Title IX, Sexual Assault & Violence Prevention, Campus Safety, etc. The campaign is called "We R the Ones." Safety comes from education. I have created petitions, brought different sexual violence prevention groups to campus but there is still no overarching mandatory course.
Whilst hosting a policy analysis event with Students Active For Ending Rape (SAFER) I was made aware of the controversial nature of my campus' Title IX Coordinator. I had never read my campus' sexual assault protocol before then and was shocked that our campus allowed an administrator to be the same person who would protect the students' rights in cases of rape and assault. Although not a clear violation, the fact that a vice-chancellor was named Title IX coordinator, responsible for student advocacy, left me questioning the transparency of the system. "The coordinator should not have other job responsibilities that may create a conflict of interest. Designating a full-time Title IX coordinator will minimize the risk of a conflict of interest," NotAlone.Gov states. Along with all that, our sexual assault policy is only available in English which I find ridiculous considering Rutgers University - Newark is the most diverse university in the country. I am drafting up language to see our sexual assault policy offered in more than one language. The resources may exist. It is just a matter of the accessibility of the information. After all, we are a Minority Serving Institution (MIS). And we need to start serving those minorities rather than capitalize on the statistics of simply having those minorities make Rutgers appear in a list with the title for “Most Diverse.”
HC: What advice do you have for other ambitious collegiettes with a goal/dream?
RF: Be flexible. Goals and dreams aren’t set in stone. They are guidance tools. The more flexible you are with yourself the less likely you are to have “goals” or “dreams” break you. Be un-messable with. You have and set those goals and dreams, those goals and dreams don’t have or set you.
HC: What is your favorite inspirational quote?
RF: “Nothing lasts forever, so live it up, drink it down, laugh it off, avoid the bullshit, take chances and never have regrets, because at one point everything you did was exactly what you wanted.” - Marilyn Monroe
HC: What is some of the most positive feedback you have received from your peers concerning the affirmative consent policy you introduced at Rutgers?
RF: The most positive feedback I have received from my peers is when they have the (what I like to call) Aha! moment. Most college going students don’t know what consent is and how it is defined. When it comes to affirmative consent folks get confused about the fact that their power to say YES and consent should narrate their sexual encounters through and through. The Aha! moment is when someone realizes that their YES can become a NO even during sex and it is still their right to want to stop. Yes, mid-sex you can say, “Hey, you know what? I am not feeling it today.” So the Aha! moment is when people get that they can walk away, pause, step back, take a breather, and low and behold CHANGE their minds about sex with another individual.
This moment is empowering because it can restore power to people who can be in loving healthy relationships. You are never obligated to share your body with another human being despite how much history, love, or safety there may be. This epiphany is liberating for everyone, that’s why I love affirmative consent in theory… everybody wins.
Iris is the associate editor at Her Campus. She graduated from UCLA with a degree in communications and gender studies, but was born and raised in France with an English mother. She enjoys country music, the color pink and pretending she has her life together. Iris was the style editor and LGBTQ+ editor for HC as an undergrad, and has interned for Cosmopolitan.com and goop. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @irisgoldsztajn, or check out her writing portfolio here.