Survey reopened to help government tackle violence against women and girls

by Abigail Beresford

The Home Office has released an online open consultation to people in England and Wales to help the development of the government’s Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy.

All genders in England and Wales are being encouraged to participate in the survey, to help inform the development of the government’s next Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy.

“We are particularly keen to hear from people who may feel underrepresented in previous strategies or who feel their circumstances were not supported by existing services,” said the Home Office.

YouGov conducted a survey which found that 97 per cent of women between the ages of 18-24 said they had been sexually harassed, whilst 80 per cent of all ages said they had experienced sexual harassment in public spaces.

Since the release of this shocking statistic, YouGov has reopened the survey to encourage more girls and women to participate, to depict the reality of how often sexual harassment occurs.

Everyone aged over 16 years old and of various genders are being encouraged to participate in the survey.

To participate in the survey, visit https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/violence-against-women-and-girls-vawg-call-for-evidence.

Police raid parties and issue fines as students flout lockdown restrictions in Covid-hit Leicester

By Laura Murphy and Sarah Danquah

A student who was fined £800 for contravening lockdown laws and attending an illegal party says he doesn’t regret going to the party – he only regrets getting caught.

The 19-year-old student, who was visiting his girlfriend at DMU from his uni in London, was arrested by police after they broke up a huge party in student accommodation.

The incident happened on Saturday night (FEB27) at Inka Studios in Percy Road, near to the University of Leicester. There were more incidents nearer to DMU the previous night.

“We just wanted to be around people and didn’t really think about the virus,” admitted the 19-year-old student, who did not want to be named. 

Young people gather in the street after police put a stop to their illegal party.

“The police turned up at 4 am and shut everything down. I’m not really around people so who could I really pass the virus on to? All the people that are vulnerable are currently being vaccinated anyway.

“If you’re willing to break the law, though, you should be able to face the consequences.”

‘Several illegal parties’

It was one of several illegal parties students held in the city last weekend, according to Leicestershire police. Leicester currently boasts the second highest number of coronavirus cases in the East Midlands.

Similar parties were broken up by police in student households in Dover Street, Marquis Street and Tudor Road, near DMU, on Friday night.

Police estimate more than 100 students had attended the parties and that 35 people were issued with £200 forced penalty fines.

The Friday night party seemed to start in one house and move to others, say neighbours, as the police attended and broke-up gatherings.

Harvey Mills, the director of Cloud Student, the company that owns the student property in this area, said calls were made to police and they attended promptly. Mr Mills called on DMU to crack down on students breaking restrictions.

Residents of Tudor Road were disgusted at the blatant disregard for the rules.

“Some of us have lost our jobs so it’s quite disturbing seeing all these people being inconsiderate and not caring about what is happening around them,” one resident said.

Another resident who witnessed the partying said students were being irresponsible. “Parties like these occupy the police at the weekend,” she said. “The police shouldn’t have to deal with students being inconsiderate.”

A police spokesperson said they will be patrolling the Tudor Road area to prevent other gatherings from happening. 

Will it stop the gatherings? It might not. One student who ran from las weekend’s party and was not caught remains unrepentant.

“I wanted to have fun. I am tired of staying of indoors. I feel like Covid is never ending,” she said.

“I’d definitely go to a party again – not this week but probably next week.”

We asked DMU to comment on this, but they did not respond.

‘Hello again, my dear wife – it’s been a long 20 years…’

The story of how a Zimbabwean family reunited – after nearly two decades apart. Pythias Makonese tells his story.

It is not easy to sustain a marriage when the husband and wife live thousands of miles apart for almost two decades.

A lot marriages would collapsed under these circumstances. Somehow – thanks to the patience of my wife, Nomia, and the help of the Leicester branch of the British Red Cross – we managed to not only keep strong but to re-unite. This is our story.

Nomia Vongai Makonese, 58, a mother of five children landed at Heathrow airport, accompanied by her youngest daughter, Florence, 22, on December 5, 2020. I was there to meet them. At long last, we were together.

This is a story that goes back a long way.

After my teaching qualification, I started work as a teacher in 1978 at a primary school and taught for seven years before I got married. I married Nomia in a Civil Court at Mvuma, Zimbabwe in May 1985. We settled down and raised five children – one boy and four girls.

For 17 years, we lived together and looked after our family. I worked as a teacher. Life was good.

In 1980, there was a change of government in our country as the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) took over from Rhodesian Front (R.F.) headed by Ian Douglas Smith.  

An opposition political party, Movement for Democratic Change, was formed in 1999 led by Morgen Tsvangirai. Most teachers were aligned to the opposition party and were considered enemies of the then-ruling ZANU. This is allowed in England. It’s the nature of politics in a democracy. It wasn’t in my home country.

Many teachers became political victims. The pressure was so great I felt I had to leave my job, my home, family and move to England. This was 2002 and I had been accused of supporting the MDC when I invited the local parliament (MDC) to an annual general meeting of a School Development Association. 

My story for fear of political persecution was not believed by the Home Office when I applied for refugee protection in the United Kingdom. It took 10 years for the UK to believe me, when I finally won my appeal case.

When I gained refuge protection, I used my news status to try to bring about a family reunion – to bring over my wife and my youngest daughter.

This was refused in 2018. But I was determined and appealed again. This time, I was successful.

Still, it took a whole year – red tape, forms, officials – before we could get the travel documents.

The date was set. April 4, 2020. They were all set to board the plane – and the flight was cancelled because of the COVID pandemic.

The reunion was put back another eight months.

It was the end of a tough chapter for Nomia, raising the couple’s children single-handedly.

“I was just thrilled to meet my husband,” she said. ” I last met him in October 2002 back in Zimbabwe.”

Its as also a joyous day for Florence. “I was only four year old when my father left me and had only a faint idea on how he looks,” she said. “I am very happy to meet him and will be the happiest child on earth to stay with him unlike in the past when I used to talk to him over the phone.”

Florence is now 22, and aims to further her education, and hopes her siblings can join her one day.

It’s been a long and difficult process to get this far. But the lesson here is that no matter how tough it has been, people want to be with the ones they love the most.

If you have that – and the help of the Leicester branch of the Rad Cross – then anything is possible.

Demonstrations against new Polish abortion laws reach Leicester

By Beatriz Abreu Ferreira

Hundreds of people in solidarity with Polish women have confirmed their presence at the Piekło Kobiet (Women’s hell) peaceful demonstrations, which will be happening on Sunday at midday at the clock tower.

The Piekło Kobiet demonstrations started as a direct reaction to the new abortion laws in Poland approved by the Constitutional Tribunal on the 22nd of October, which made abortions for fetal abnormalities against the Constitution.

Polish abortion laws were already one of the most restrictive in Europe, only permitting terminations in case of a threat to a woman’s health, in the case of incest or rape, or for fetal abnormalities – which represented the vast majority of legal abortion but has now been made illegal.

Karolina Ciechaowska, organiser of the demonstration in Leicester, said: “I’m a mother of two daughters, and I still have family and friends, who also have daughters, back in Poland. And personally, as a women, it all just made me really angry.

“As I couldn’t be there with the Polish women to show my support and I knew these demonstrations were happening in London and Edinburgh, I started looking for similar things in Leicester but I couldn’t find it so me and another Polish girl decided to started it by ourselves. 

“What we plan to do is just gather there with our signs. There will be no screaming or shouting, we don’t want any abuse or violence. If we have enough equipment we might do a couple of speeches.”

The organiser of the event also plans to ensure social distancing will be respected and the group has been keeping contact with the police.

“I really want the police to be there, and to be aware of the numbers so they can prepare themselves. They have been really supportive.

“And we have been getting a lot of hate. I have been sent threatening messages on my private Facebook which is really not nice… I have family here, people can see what I look like… Our safety is as important as everyone else’s,” she continued.

The main aim of the demonstrations is to raise awareness about the issue and show support with the Polish women protesting on the streets.

“Many of my British friends have no idea of what is happening in Poland. And there is a big Polish community in Leicester.

“I think spreading the word can only do good, especially when there are so many Polish people coming over here.

“It’s important that people know this is, amongst many others, a reason why so many people, especially young people, are coming here. They are not coming here to take the jobs, they are trying to escape this government and looking for a life with more rights,” Karolina added.

To find out more about the peaceful demonstration in Leicester please visit: https://fb.me/e/2j8GI9ojx

De Montfort Students’ Union voting ends after a busy week of campaigning on campus

by Adam Rear

The De Montfort Students’ Union (DSU) is looking to update its leadership team for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Students at DMU have been eligible to vote for the candidates they think are best suited for each role, with a polling station setting up on campus from last Tuesday (March 3) until yesterday (March 9).

Health and Well-being student, Navi, 19 was out handing leaflets for candidates and said: “This vote helps to determine which students will represent different departments of the student voice.

“There are multiple areas people are running for, such as Academic Executive, Equality and Diversity Executive and Disabled Students Representative.

“The votes give students the opportunity to have their voices heard while studying at University.

“The elections are similar to other votes and referendums we have in this country; candidates put themselves forward, create manifestos, promote themselves and hope that people vote in their favour.”

The advertisement surrounding the votes stemmed as far as being shown on DMU library computers

Campaigning for the DSU elections have varied in methods from candidate to candidate.

Some candidates have been out on campus handing out leaflets, while others have sent emails to students in order to try and gain their votes.

Navi said: “The election hasn’t been as big as I thought it would be. It’s been advertised on the DSU website and emails have been sent but a lot of students don’t check these.

“While campaigning there have been people coming up saying they don’t believe in democracy which is annoying to see really.

“It makes me think, why complain when you have an opportunity to fix it. Having said that, there does seem to be a good turn-out for voters that I have seen.”

The polling ended at 7pm yesterday (Monday March 9) and the results will become live on the evening of Wednesday, March 18.