Activist Fiona Drouet who founded a charity after the death of her daughter to campaign against gender-based violence in colleges and universities, has been recognised with an honorary degree from The Open University in Scotland.
Fiona’s eldest daughter, Emily, took her own life as a student, after she was subjected to a sustained campaign of physical and mental abuse by a fellow student.
Determined that no other young woman should suffer in the same way, Fiona created EmilyTest to make sure that colleges and universities recognise abusive behaviour, provide support to students, and put in place the right procedures to take action against gender-based violence.
In 2021, the charity launched the world’s first gender-based violence charter for colleges and universities to tackle domestic violence, with support from Scottish Government.
Fiona, said: “Emily didn't get the chance to be awarded her degree and so I am delighted to be accepting this honour, not just for me, but for my wonderful and dearly missed daughter too.
“The Open University is synonymous with equality and inclusivity, and renowned for treating people with dignity and respect while challenging inequality – values that we hold very dear at EmilyTest.
“We are very proud to be recognised for our work in gender-based violence prevention, intervention and support in universities and I am delighted to receive this honorary degree alongside so many deserving and inspirational students.”
Fiona was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of the University alongside campaigner for refugees and asylum seekers, Sabir Zazai, and entrepreneur and champion for women in business, Professor Lynne Cadenhead. All three were recognised by the OU for their significant contributions to society.
Sabir Zazai has dedicated his life to securing the rights and improving the lives of refugees and asylum seekers. Born and raised in Kabul, Sabir’s life was thrown into chaos after the outbreak of war in 1992.
His family lived for years in a United Nations refugee camp on the border with Pakistan, then endured months of danger and hardship travelling across Europe in search of safety.
Settling in Britain, he became a leading figure campaigning for justice for refugees and asylum seekers in Coventry. For the past five years, he has served as chief executive of the Scottish Refugee Council.
Sabir, commented: “I’m delighted to receive this award which is a recognition of the fantastic work and dedication of all of my colleagues at Scottish Refugee Council. The Open University has done so much for equality in education in the UK and it’s an honour to be recognised by the institution.
“As I accept this honour, women and girls across Afghanistan are denied the chance to access even the most basic education. I’d like to dedicate this award to them and ask that even as political storms envelop the UK, that we remember the fight of Afghan girls for education.”
Professor Lynne Cadenhead has run a series of technologically driven companies across different sectors and has made an exceptional contribution to business and economic development in Scotland, having served on more than thirty boards across the public and private sector.
Lynne has a particular interest in promoting gender equality in business, as the chair of Women’s Enterprise Scotland, the organisation which champions women-owned and women-led businesses.
Lynne, commented: “I am deeply honoured to have been nominated for this honorary degree of Doctor of The Open University. It has been a privilege throughout my career to be able to make a contribution to women in business and enterprise, in particular within STEM roles and I am passionate about paying forward what others have shared with me over the years.
“If we want an innovative, thriving and socially just economy, we must have gender equality in enterprise. And just as The Open University is committed to supporting people to realise their ambitions and fulfil their potential, so I have been fortunate enough to be able to share what I have learned during my career to help others get to where they want to be.”
The three honorary graduates joined over 600 students at Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall in a ceremony where 49% of the students were the first in their family to study at a higher education level.
Susan Stewart, Director of the OU in Scotland, added:
“The OU welcomes students of all ages and backgrounds. Many have been on an incredible journey to get to where they are today, often with many challenges. We’re all very proud of them.
“These wonderful graduates join over 200,000 Scots, who’ve studied with the OU since our founding and it’s a pleasure to be able to welcome them, and our inspiring honorary graduates, to the OU family.”
Photos by Julie Howden
31 October 2022