Our university is full of inspiring women who are achieving fantastic things in every aspect of life, and I feel extremely privileged to study alongside them. To celebrate International Women’s Day, here are just a few current, female University of Manchester students worthy of celebration.
Grace Harvey – Paralympic Swimmer
Third-year Immunology student Grace balances her degree with an extremely impressive career as a Paralympic Swimmer, a sport she started at age nine. Fast forward to 2022, and Grace holds a Paralympic silver medal in SB5 breaststroke, which she earned in Tokyo 2021 alongside her Undergraduate degree. As of 2022, she holds 11 British records and various European titles, which are a testament to her talent and dedication.
Grace completed her second-year studies on a part-time basis whilst training for the games, undertaking a gruelling training regime whilst still achieving her academic goals. The resilience she has shown in balancing the two, particularly throughout a pandemic, is amazing.
Tiba Bonyad – Reproductive Justice Advocate
PhD student Tiba was awarded the 2020 Sociology Public Engagement Prize by the University due to her research on sperm and egg donation, surrogacy and reproductive justice in Iran, work which has helped lessen the stigma and improve understanding of women’s rights and reproductive options in the country. Her work has led her to speak on the popular sex education podcast Avishan, where she reached thousands of listeners over multiple episodes and proved so popular that she was invited back for a Q&A session. Tiba has also written about her research in influential Iranian feminist magazine Zanan-e Emrooz, which she campaigned to make publicly accessible to spread the ethos of reproductive justice to as many women as possible.
Through her academic research, Tiba has made an impressive and inspiring difference to the conversation around women’s rights in Iran, highlighting the power of one voice and standing up for women across the world.
Rachel Devlin and Cora De Silva – Women’s Self Defence Classes
After acknowledging how intimidating it can be for women to get involved in martial arts and the confidence that self-defence training can provide, in February 2022 second-year students Rachel and Cora started weekly UoM Women’s Self Defence Classes. Both women have trained in self-defence and recognise the importance of being able to use these skills if necessary, and ask only for only £1 per session to cover the venue costs, though extra donations are given to women’s charities.
Though the classes have begun recently, each one has been fully booked and has seen women learn vital skills such as wrist grab defence and strikes. By dedicating an hour a week to helping other women, Rachel and Cora are creating an empowered, safer community of students and potentially saving lives. Keep up with the classes here.
Izzy Smitheman – Student Activist
As a fresher, English Literature and French student Izzy dedicated much of her 2020-21 academic year to fighting for the rights of fellow University of Manchester students. Izzy spoke out about difficult conditions faced by students during lockdown, including challenges with mental health, issues in student accommodation and general dissatisfaction with the student experience. By engaging with staff and press, as well as participating in occupations and rent strikes, Izzy tirelessly acted alongside other student activists to create positive change for the student community.
Her work, alongside that of others, contributed to rent reductions for students and encouraged a national conversation about student wellbeing and rights.
Arta Baca – The Making it Podcast
Second-year student Arta Baca started her podcast, Making It, in Winter 2020 as a first-year student in lockdown. Since then, she has spoken on topics such as self-development, entrepreneurship, spirituality and her university experience, combining personal experience with factual research to create insightful and engaging episodes. Arta has also released conversations with guests such as TedTalk speaker Andrew Thorp, as well as an episode on Men’s Mental Health Month with Daniel O’Flaherty which tackled heavy themes with grace and compassion.
Making It is a fantastic resource if you’re interested in changing your mindset or hearing about the student experience – listen here.
Aimee Pratt – Steeplechase athlete
Anatomical Sciences student Aimee, from Stockport, is a celebrated athlete who competed for Team GB in Tokyo 2021 and has a plethora of sporting achievements to her name. Aimee holds the 2020 British Champion title in the 3000m steeplechase, and also set a championship record in the British Universities 2000m race in 2019. Her talent and dedication to steeplechase, a sport that she discovered in 2014 after going to a session run by the Diane Modahl Sports Foundation, has been encouraged by the University and her coach from the foundation, who saw her world-class potential.
Steeplechase is a sport that involves athletes racing on a track, clearing hurdles and water jumps during the run. Despite the intense workload of her degree and the challenges faced to her training and competing by the pandemic, Aimee continues to impress both on the track and academically and has been highly praised by her academic advisor.