Like most bearded students, somewhere on some bag or winter coat I too have a bright yellow Amnesty International candle badge pinned. The logo represents Human Rights that affect us all and the role Amnesty plays in fighting injustice, it’s also a lovely colour. But I am more than some mere stylish badge wearer; I am an activist and Amnesty is the reason why I am sat here writing this as a sabb-elect of University of Leicester Student Union.
Activism is such an important part of my life, getting up in the morning for a 9am lecture is one thing, but staying up all night making card shackles for a Burma protest is certainly another. Passing the sign in sheet for a mandatory seminar is dull but asking someone to sign a petition for gay rights in Uganda is rousing. Performing an oral presentation in front of a lecture room full of students is nerve racking, delivering a presentation on forced evictions in Kenya is gripping. Being an Amnesty activist doesn’t end at attending that meeting on a Tuesday evening but for many like me; it actually defines one of the best parts of being a student – collective action.
It was a cold November morning at Amnesty Student Conference 09 – I was eagerly sat at a session on Amnesty’s Stop Violence Against Women campaign where Olivia Bailey (NUS Women’s Officer) mentioned a survey on sexual harassment for female students on college and university campus’. I was naturally intrigued about this survey, as a feminist it doesn’t take much for me to talk about inequality; I spoke to Olivia after the session, got added to the NUS Women’s mailing list and enjoyed the rest of the conference (there was a cheap bar and an underground nightclub where I busted out some shapes. It was excellent.)
Many moons later, a report came out based on the survey. It was called hidden marks; the repor
t uncovered various shocking statics. I was so taken back at results that I felt something needed to be done about this. However, my time as a student was coming to a close – I was at the end of my 3rd year. I worried if anyone would do anything serious about violence against female students on campus.
The Incumbent in my position was also leaving at the end of the year and I thought to myself about how this work would get carried out. I thought I’d pass some motions, and even go to the election debates making sexual harassment the issue – but what if I walked away from the debate not satisfied with the answers? It was that moment where I actually looked at seriously running. Putting an end to violence against female students on campus was what I was passionate about and I was going to do something about it.
So there I was, a bearded student, proudly wearing an amnesty badge talking to other students about issues which affected them and what I thought we should do about it. Hopefully now, after winning, I can get up at 9am every morning and make a bigger difference with students, still proudly wearing that amnesty badge that I started with.
Thomas French, Campaigns & Involvement Officer-elect.