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NUS Wales President's Christmas and New Year Message

Thursday 20-12-2018 - 09:00

NUS Wales President Gwyneth Sweatman takes a moment to reflect on the past year and thank all our members for their hard work during 2018.

First, I think it’s important to recognise that this has been a long year. I hope you will all have the opportunity for some rest, peace and quiet over the festive period.

At the start of this year, I was proud to host the largest ever Reclaim the Night Wales. Together, we were absolutely clear in calling for an end to violence against women.

My successor as Women’s Officer, Chizi Phiri, has continued this work, alongside other women’s officers across Wales and the wider UK.

In fact, she recently revived the 16 Days of Activism campaign, and has been working with other organisations like Welsh Women’s Aid, to keep up the fight.

We moved on to NUS Wales Conference in the spring, where I was proud and grateful to receive your support to become president.

During that conference, we were addressed by Eluned Morgan AM, who was promoted to the Cabinet last week as Minister for International Relations and Welsh Language.

We held a range of workshops and presentations, discussed, debated, and passed new policies, and elected our leadership.

I would like to thank everyone who has participated in our events this year. They can’t happen with you, so I’m grateful for your support.

In July, the new officer team took office, and I am proud to be working alongside Deputy President Alex Rollason and Women’s Officer Chizi Phiri.

Since the summer, we’ve been getting out and about on campuses, planning our work, and starting to get our campaigns off the ground.

The three of us are incredibly grateful to you all for the warm welcome you’ve given us when we’ve visited you all around Wales.

We are continuously astounded at the quality and breadth of work our movement does on behalf of students. In every corner of Wales, students’ unions are truly amazing.

Since September, we’ve launched a piece of work on mental health, including a toolkit and my President’s Mental Health Advisory Group.

We’ve also launched a piece of work on violence against women, and are busy preparing another piece of work on period poverty, which we’ll be sharing with you next year.

At this point, I have to mention Brexit. Our movement was united when we published our Brexit position paper in September, and we’ve continued to speak with one voice.

As chaos reigns in Westminster, our movement is clear that this is not our Brexit. It is now clear that there is no such thing as a version of Brexit which protects our futures.

And I’m afraid the only way out of this mess is to go back to us, the people, now that we have full possession of the facts. We demand a People’s Vote.

Sadly, Brexit has taken over, and you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s the only thing on anyone’s agenda. But it is not.

This year, we have cause to celebrate in that Wales’ new student finance system has started being delivered.

We firmly believe that this is the most progressive student finance system in the UK. That’s proved by the increase in numbers of part-time students.

As a movement, we have been part of shaping this system for years, and it’s finally paying off in the form of more money in students’ pockets.

And we’re not done yet. Over the next few years, we’ll continue to work towards an accessible, inclusive, and sustainable education system for everyone in Wales.

We can’t do any of the work we do without our members. After all, every single thing we do is for and on behalf of students’ union and students.

I am very grateful to all those who have worked with us, attended our events, signed our open letters, shared our social media posts, and much more besides, this year.

Your voices give our work currency when we’re speaking with the education sector and with politicians. The value of your support is truly immeasurable, so thank you.

This time of year is an opportunity to take stock, recharge, and do the things that make us happy.

When we return in the New Year, there are big things for us to contend with, chief among them avoiding a catastrophic Brexit. We will need to be united.

I know we all can, and will, rise to the challenge.

But for now, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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