Women’s History Month: we caught up with UoB’s strong and striking women and non-binary people
The students are campaigning about issues including women’s safety, race and mental health
In light of an incredibly powerful and memorable Women’s History Month, we wanted to end March by taking the opportunity to recognise some of the exciting and inspiring things the women and non-binary people of UoB have been up to this term.
From campaigns to podcasts to increasing female representation, UoB students have done it all.
Here are just some of the women and non-binary students we need to celebrate.
Organiser of the University of Birmingham Rent Strike
Jasmine told The Birmingham Tab that the idea to organise a rent strike came after she became “so tired of everyone complaining saying they wanted their money back”. The strike saw over £100,000 of rent being withheld, with the university subsequently agreeing to a rent rebate for some students.
She explained that she was “not prepared in the slightest” to undertake the massive task. “I’d make sure I did my research beforehand […] if I could go back” she said.
The first year Philosophy student described to The Birmingham Tab how the outcome has felt “bittersweet”, detailing how “though we were successful, we haven’t achieved the goals we had set out for ourselves.
“We shouldn’t be happy with the bare minimum.”
Whilst Jasmine admitted that “momentum for the movement has definitely declined”, the committee are doing “a lot more behind the scenes and with the university” to push for further rent reductions and support.
Head of Urban Angels Birmingham
Urban Angels is a recently established community for women’s safety. Founded in Exeter, Anna is in charge of the Birmingham division of the national group, which provides women with a platform to share ideas on how to make the university a safer place.
“My friend came up with the idea after herself and people she knew had experienced unpleasant encounters when walking home,” Anna explained to The Birmingham Tab.
Anna created the Birmingham Urban Angels page which saw 800 members join in the first 48 hours. Now boasting over 1,200 members, Anna described how “it’s amazing to interact with the girls, get them involved and hear about their ideas and experiences.”
“It’s something that needed to be done and hopefully we will be able to make a change!”
Founder of Burn FM Radio Show “Fresh and Female”
Rae, a Politics and International Relations student, is both the founder and host of the new Burn FM radio show, “Fresh and Female”. She explained to The Birmingham Tab how she “wanted to make a platform where female artists who are underrepresented in the music industry could be highlighted and supported.”
The final year student told The Birmingham Tab that she finds guests through “friends or secondary contacts” although also messages musicians on social media. The show has featured well-known artists including Celeste and Tate McRae as well as up-and-coming guests including Akemi Fox, a Manchester based artist and US singer Jasmine Ortiz.
Rae described to The Birmingham Tab, “it gives me a platform to truly represent female and non-binary voices,” she said.
Co-Founder of Tirah
Jade co-founded Tirah in 2017. The not-for-profit organisation encourages young people to engage in conversation to understand differences in opinions, operating in a federation of 48 schools.
Jade, who also studies Politics and International Relations told The Birmingham Tab: “I wanted to create a safe space for racial discussions within my school community and provide young people with opportunities to enhance their critical thinking skills being how beneficial it is throughout life.
“Race is a pivotal factor, although now we focus on many different aspects within the organisation. Our leadership programme encourages people to have conversations about community spirit, culture, how can students can interact in their school community.”
Tirah are currently running a virtual student leadership programme with The Harris Federation, with Jade leading a session based on the topic of “The Community and Culture”.
Mental Health Advocate
Em Warren, a third year Psychology student has worked in many different areas providing mental health support.
Em began with volunteering for NightLine, the Guild’s student run confidential listening and information service. Now, she is on the committee for Headucate, which tackles the stigma around mental health by delivering workshops to children in secondary schools.
The Psychology student explained to The Birmingham Tab “during the pandemic I moved back to Birmingham to be a full-time support worker for people with traumatic brain injuries”. As if the third year student wasn’t busy enough, she is also a restorative justice trainee for the West Midlands police.
Team GB Athlete
Issy Boffey, a University of Birmingham sports scholar has been excelling in representing Team GB in Athletics alongside studying Biomedical Science. After placing third in the World Indoor Tour in New York, Issy came sixth at the European Indoor Athletics Championships in Toruń, Poland at the beginning of March.
Issy told The Birmingham Tab that “the weekend of racing was great” and described the Toruń Championships as “such an amazing experience to be on the senior GB team!”
President of the LGBTQ+ Association and LGBTQ+ Campaigner
As president of the LGBTQ+ Association, Adriana’s focus has been on “revamping the association” as well as creating information packs on topics including “pronouns, social model of disability and intersectionality”, they told The Birmingham Tab.
The committee have also “pushed the Vice-Chancellor team on their lack luster response to the Conversion Therapy” and plan “to work with the Guild and a few other groups on an anti-discrimination campaign”, Adriana explained.
The committee receive comments from the members about “how much the association has helped them come to terms with themselves and how wonderful it is to have friends who are like themselves”, Adriana told The Birmingham Tab.
History and Political Science student Louise Lyons-Appiah told The Birmingham Tab that, with her brother, Jeremy, she “came up with the idea to make YouTube videos discussing the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the George Floyd murder last June”. After encouraging other family members to get involved, “people really seemed to enjoy and engage in the videos,” she explained.
Louise uses her weekly episodes to discuss “any range of societal and political issues and interview guests that [they] think would inspire young people”, she told The Birmingham Tab.
Louisa has just been elected Women’s Officer for the Guild for 2021/22. She told The Birmingham Tab that she plans to “to bring up a lot of the topics around sexual assault and harassment which have arisen in the last few weeks.”
The English Literature student revealed to The Birmingham Tab that she will be “relentlessly backing any society which is helping battle gendered discrimination or giving marginalised genders a platform.”
“I have been in conversation with WANBA [Women and Non-Binary Association] and really want to elevate the reclaim campus movement,” she described, outlining plans to maintain “constant dialogue and discussion” with the society.