I was proud to be part of the University College Birminghan Guild of Students when our incoming president was unveiled. Leilani Courtney is clearly blazing a trail – I am told she is the youngest student union president, for a University, in the country – and she is not even at uni yet! Leilani is undoubtably a force to be reckoned with and a prime example of someone who has made the most of her time at University College Birmingham and thrown herself into all manner of events.
Leilani will be taking up her post in July when current president Alice Young steps down after a remarkable period in office which has been transformative for the Guild. There have been numerous highlights over the year, but the opening of the Guild Space in Summer Row ranks up there.
But for Alice, there is one major piece of unfinished business, and that’s Reclaim the Night on 10 May. Alice has championed the safety and treatment of women throughout her tenure, and Reclaim the Night sends a clear message that we should have the right to walk down a street at night without fear of harassment or violence.
The Reclaim the Night movement started in the 1970s in response to advice that women should stay at home after dark. Sadly, the movement is needed more than ever today because women who choose to walk alone after dark or are forced to because they have missed the bus or don’t have money for a taxi, or women who wear revealing clothes and are drunk, are still stigmatised.
Clearly, there is safety in numbers, and I would always suggest people stick together wherever possible while walking home after a night out. But if you do find yourself on your own, you should be able to do so in comfort. It does not mean “you are asking for it”.
Reclaim the Night aims to end violence against women and girls and that means normalising very normal situations but it can only do that with the support of University College Birmingham students. So, support the rights of women, and support Alice to crown a fabulous year as our student president. Find Reclaim The Night on Instagram @bhm.reclaimthenight and sign up to take a stand against violence towards women.