Polish pro-choice protestors behind Strajk Kobiet defiant after abuse

Members of the Polish community turned up to show their solidarity

By Alexander Hodgkins-Jones

Organisers of the Strajk Kobiet (Women’s strike) protest held in Leicester on Sunday (NOV1) have vowed to continue raising awareness of the recent tightening of restrictions around abortion in Poland despite receiving abuse.

New laws passed by the Polish government last month (OCT22) prohibiting abortion in Poland in all but very few extreme cases have sparked anger from women’s rights campaigners across Europe.

A ruling by the Polish Supreme Court changed already strict restrictions around abortions, allowing terminations only for pregnancy as the result of crime or when a woman’s life or health is at risk.

The Leicester demonstration came after a series of large-scale protests in Poland last week.

An unnamed man began shouting abuse at a small group who had remained in the Humberstone Gate area after the peaceful protest had ended at around 1.30pm.

“We were not surprised that this man saw ‘abortion’ and thought of the worst-case scenario,” said Karolina Ciechanowska, one of the organisers of Sunday’s event.

This followed a week of online threats directed at organisers from “keyboard warriors” who disagree with the pro-choice message.

Other events had to be postponed due to safety concerns, although those behind the Leicester event remained undeterred.

“What makes us angry is the people who are threatening us are Polish people. As women we just want to have a choice, it doesn’t mean we will run to the hospital and have an abortion.”

The group worked closely with the police to ensure the event was COVID-safe and free from trouble.

PiS are the ruling party in the United Poland Coalition

Karolina and Michalina Kwiecień organised the protest after realising British people were not aware of what was happening in Poland.

“We are all human beings and if some of us are having their basic human right taken away then we should all stand up,” said Karolina.

Polish national Anna María Sikora who attended the protest said: “This message is about human rights, it is unacceptable to change this law – we should be against it not just as Polish people, but as the world.”

Despite an upcoming national lockdown in England, Strajk Kobiet Leicester hope to continue spreading the word and showing solidarity in alternative ways.

“Boris [Johnson] said we can go for a walk…nobody said we can’t go for a walk with banners,” said Karolina.

DMU graduate campaigns for more rights for student nurses

By Beatriz Abreu Ferreira 

A graduate from De Montfort University has started a petition with more than 250,000 signatures calling for student nurses’ debt to be written off and their future tuition fees to be abolished.

Jessica Collins, better known through her blog Student Nurse Mummy, decided to start campaigning after experiencing the struggles of many student nurses.

“As student nurses we have to do 2,300 hours of clinical work, and I was trying to do assignments and night shifts, day shifts.

“It got to a point where I was really struggling to keep a work-life balance. So when I found out that I accrued a student debt of £66,000 during the three years of my degree, I was quite shocked. It got to a point that I had to do something about it,” Jessica said.

The young nurse started a petition, which has now more than 250,000 signatures, to get the Government to write off student nurses’ debt and abolish future tuition fees. 

Her petition got so much attention that Jessica had the opportunity to go on the Good Morning Britain television show to explain her campaign.

“I got a reply from the Minister of Care saying students weren’t paid on placement because they weren’t deemed to be offering a service to the NHS.

“Being a student nurse, that was one of the most offensive things someone could have said to me.

“We work really, really hard, we help with everything. It’s not just learning because we take our own patients and we do our own things. So for a Minister of Care to say that, it was really shocking.

“We work so hard, we do night shifts, day shifts, we work on holidays, and we don’t get paid at all. We are paying the government to even be there working.

“At the moment there are student nurses going to food banks just to eat, and many work 40 hours for their placement, but need to have another job on the side, while doing assignments as well,” she continued.

After the coronavirus pandemic, student nurses all over the country have been called up to help and Jessica was one of those who decided to go to the frontline. 

“The government gave us an option to extending our placements and have suddenly offered us band 4 pay if we help.

“However, they found a loophole in our opt-in contracts, to enable them to stop paying students for risking their lives at the earliest opportunity,” she said.

Frustrated by this decision and after not getting any useful replies from the Government, Jessica decided to publish an open letter to Boris Johnson on her Facebook page.

“Dear Boris, I don’t know if you’ll see this, I’m not entirely sure if many people will see it at all but I feel like there’s things I need to say and my letters are just never responded to. Maybe if this is shared enough, it could reach you eventually. Miracles happen,” she wrote.

Her Facebook post was shared more than 87,000 times. It gathered so much attention that CNN international news invited her to talk about the issues she had raised.

“When I went on CNN international news, they said they will ask the PM to comment but he never did.

“I then had a telephone meeting with the Minister of Care but it wasn’t very helpful, she just said she didn’t has a magic wand to change anything,” Jessica explained. 

“I hope the Government will realise the mistakes they have made and how badly they have treated the future generation of nurses.

“I hope they scrap the student debt, and I hope in the future there is more support to all student nurses,” she added.

Animal charity tells people to “remember hedgehogs” and check for lodgers on Bonfire Night

By Alexander Hodgkins-Jones

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) has warned that homemade bonfires look like five-star hotels to hedgehogs, advising people to check carefully for lodgers before lighting.

With a new national lockdown beginning in England on the same day as Guy Fawkes Night and big displays cancelled, a huge number of garden bonfires are expected at residential addresses.

Hedgehogs bed down in unlit bonfire piles and sadly perish when ignited.

Hedgehog numbers have dwindled in recent years

The People’s Trust for Endangered Species in 2018 found that hedgehog numbers have fallen by half in rural areas in the last 20 years.

Bonfire risks expose the spiky critters to further decline.

BHPS advises bonfire builders to check carefully under the pile by lifting it with something non-sharp, like a broom, and looking thoroughly with a torch for sleepy dwellers.

If you do find a hedgehog then carefully remove it to a safe place and return it to its habitat the following day after dousing the area with water.

More information about hedgehog preservation can be found on the BHPS website.

Lockdown 2 sparks fresh mental health concerns for DMU students

By Adam Dutton

The announcement of a second lockdown has sparked fresh concerns from DMU students about the impact it will have on their mental health.

Boris Johnson announced a second national lockdown on Saturday night, (OCT31), imposing tighter restrictions on the nation in an attempt to slow the effects of Coronavirus.

The government restrictions are expected to last for at least four weeks, starting from today until December 2.

While the restrictions this time around are less severe, the impact of the lockdown on mental health is expected to be just as bad.

Zoaib Kitabi, 22, an Engineering student from DMU, said: “The first lockdown was enough. The stress it caused and the anxiety it created.

“Couple this with the uni workload and looming deadlines, the new lockdown could be extremely bad for some students.

“The online learning is already testing enough, preventing socialising and such, a second lockdown would only make that side of it worse.”

Students are prevented from travelling home and social gatherings and socialising in large groups have been banned.

Ashley Young, 22 and a student, also said: “If I wanted to leave for home I’m now not allowed to. I have to stay here until December at the earliest and it’s not ideal.

“It is an uncomfortable position to be in and I wish we didn’t have to do it. I feel restricted and frustrated and I miss home.

“It’ll be great when this is all over.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the rate of depression in adults has sharply increased.

A study carried out by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found out that the rate of depression in adults had grown by more than 8 per cent in the UK since the start of the pandemic.

More than 69 per cent of adults also recorded feeling the effects of worsening mental effects since the start of the pandemic.

Lockdown 2 is expected to end December 2, however that could change if the death toll and positive cases do not begin to fall.

Contactless donation point returns to DMU campus for Winter Night Shelter

By Samuel Gill

A contactless donation point has returned to DMU campus at the front of the DSU Supplies Shop until March which will enable students and staff to donate £3 to Leicester’s Winter Night Shelter Campaign.

It is a campaign which provides beds for rough sleepers and also means that those giving the money know that it is being used for good.

Give Leicester uses the money to help improve the lives of some of the city’s most vulnerable people.

This can be done easily with just the tap of a contactless card on Mill Lane and is one of a number of Giving Points in the city.