Meet our student woman of the year finalists!

Back in March, for International Women’s Day, we launched our nationwide search to find the UNiDAYS Student Woman of the Year. Nominations flooded in from female-identifying students who were making waves in everything from technology and entrepreneurship to gender equality and projects that support charities. Our panel faced a tough decision, but we’d love to introduce you to our six finalists, including the overall winner, Ayesha Chaudhry.

Ayesha Chaudhry, founder of platform for womxn of colour

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Ayesha created OnBeat, which is a platform for womxn of colour, and non binary people of colour in the North. It has now morphed into a collective community where they run events, workshops and even host radio shows and in the past year OnBeat has published two magazines that have both completely sold out! Ayesha created OnBeat in her first year at Leeds, after feeling disconnected from many of her peers and was struggling to feel part of a community, a challenge faced by many BME students when they join University. Ayesha started OnBeat as a young fresher, and has now prevented other students going through the confusion and isolation she experienced as a young womxn of colour.

Zulia Shavaeva, champion for women in STEM

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Being one of 5 girls who study Computer Science in the course of 100 boys Zulia has made it her mission to make a difference for women in STEM. Not only has Zulia organised the TEDx conference at Durham uni, where the focus was on equality, but she aso was the head organiser of the Durham Hackathon. On top of all this, she is also president of Durham’s Women in Tech and has held countless coding and leadership workshops for girls with any level of coding. Zulia’s passion for women in tech has also led her to do things outside her uni, including developing a 6-week game development course in local primary schools and volunteering with children in foster care.

Natasha Boulding, founder of Plastech Innovation

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In 2019 Natasha co-founded Plastech Innovation, the first student spin-out company from Durham University, which develops technology to revive waste plastic that was destined for landfill and transform it into aggregate for construction materials. She leads a small team that has gone on to win global awards. She is passionate about talking on issues such as plastic pollution and entrepreneurship and has delivered talks for fellow university students and school students, all while studying for her PhD in chemistry!

Chloe Smith, President of Durham University Charity Fashion Show

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Chloe is the President of Durham University Charity Fashion Show, the largest student-led fundraiser in the UK. This year the show supported 2 charities, Stop the Traffik and Fashion Revolution, to raise awareness about unsafe working conditions and human rights injustices across production supply chains. Throughout the year she organised club nights, networking evenings, an arts showcase, a race to Paris and a clothes swap to raise awareness for the cause. Chloe led her team to raise a record-breaking £171,000 for these 2 charities which is an amazing feat.

Tanya Nyadzayo, founder of Her Packages

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Tanya co-founded a social project called Her Packages which helps school girls in sub-Saharan Africa by providing them with reusable sanitary products. She funds the project through selling handmade African accessories such as earrings and fans. This project has been running alongside her studies as a final year student, which highlights how engaged and dedicated she is to both education and helping others. In addition, prior to the lockdown we realigned our resources towards helping those who had already began to self-isolate by offering contactless shopping and dog walking. We are in the process of also making African print masks for those who need them!

Harriet Lester, founder of VitaGUM

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Harriet founded a social enterprise known as VitaGUM, which aims to make multivitamin-infused chewing gums that improves malnutrition and dental health in refugee populations. She had the idea after becoming heavily involved in refugee charities and volunteering at refugee camps in Calais. As well as this, she is the Women’s officer at Balliol College and is a big advocate for changes in the college's sexual harassment/assault policy to protect women on campus, and she also campaigns to increase awareness for HPV testing and pap smears.

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