Zuleikha Chikh has been elected into the role as the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) Students’ Union (SU) President for the 2020/21 year.
The MSc Sports Business Management student was voted into the role in March 2020 by UCLan students after two weeks of campaigning and will start her new position in July 2020 when she replaces outgoing President, Suntosh Kaur.
Zuleikha had been a Student Ambassador, a Sport Activator and a School President during her time as an undergraduate at the university and won this election with a campaign focused on a promise to make positive change in students’ lives and enhance the university experience.
Zuleikha said, “I’m delighted to have been elected as the new UCLan SU President. I really enjoyed the campaigning process, putting myself in my stretch zone and having honest conversations with students. It was encouraging to have the backing from the students as to what I have proposed in my manifesto”.
The BSc (Hons) Sport Business Management graduate made pledges to lobby the university to invest in more financial bursaries for students; to improve employability on UCLan courses; to make the SU more relevant to students; and for university canteens to accommodate all dietary requirements such as halal and vegan diets.
Last year, Zuleikha was selected on the 2019 Powerlist by the Muslim Women in Sport Network (MWSN), alongside names like FIFA General Secretary, Fatma Samoura; H.R.H. Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al-Saud, and BBC Sport Journalist, Reshmin Chowdhury.
Zuleikha was included on the list because of her passion and success at increasing the number of minority ethnic women participating in sport. Zuleikha is the founder and Chair of UCLan Women’s Futsal Club. Using the power of sport, she brings women together from a variety of backgrounds, boosts their confidence and creates leaders.
Zuleikha commented: “Our committee set the values of the club from day one - inclusive, respect, fun and leadership. Sport can bring people together, create a sense of community, and empower disadvantaged groups. It increases physical, psychological and social wellbeing and gives players a sense of belonging. Sport is a great tool for women’s empowerment and to create leaders. This year I am stepping down as Chair and handing the club over to a new committee who will inspire more female students and staff to become and stay active during their time at UCLan. It has been refreshing to see the Muslim population on campus engaging in sport and not only see the girls develop as players but as people”.
Each week she created a safe space for more than 20 female students and staff to become physically active. Zuleikha was able to communicate in French with girls from France, Morocco and Ivory Coast which helped the girls connect with the sport easier. In the club’s first competitive season they finished second place in the British Universities and Colleges Sport Northern 2A Division. To finish off the season, Zuleikha was presented with the 2020 BUCS Chris Potter Bursary, for her dedication to empowering girls from all backgrounds to get involved in sport, and the 2019 Volunteer of the Year at the Lancashire Sports Awards.
Zuleikha has used her time at university to the fullest. She took the opportunity to travel abroad multiple times to promote the use of sport and leadership to help young people in other countries. Last year with UCLan’s Centre for Volunteering and Community Leadership, Zuleikha went to Agadir, Morocco. Prior to going she did some fundraising and the local community donated approximately 50 football kits and sports equipment. She delivered sporting activities in French and engaged children in art, painting and ICT activities. She also delivered a personal shield workshop to young adults at an alcohol and drug rehab centre. This activity encouraged them to start thinking about their values and aspirations for the future.
Three months later, she travelled to Lesvos, Greece. After completing the Global Youth Solutions training with the Centre for Volunteering and Community Leadership, Zuleikha delivered the leadership programme to 17-18 year old unaccompanied minors at an informal education centre. This programme helped young people realise their potential, future goals and the leadership role they can play in their communities to create change through activities based on communication, teamwork and problem solving.
Alongside her studies this year, Zuleikha represented UCLan on the Football Association University Women’s Leadership Programme. This programme aims to support students by developing life skills that they can take into the workforce, build confidence and strengthen professional networks. She presented at the AoC Sport and English Colleges FA (ECFA) National Conference on enhancing employability through sport-based volunteerism and at Blackburn College to sport students on how volunteering can support their career moving forward.
Last year, Zuleikha was awarded the 2019 UCLan Sports Personality of the Year and the Vice-Chancellor’s award for Excellence in Volunteering and award for Academic Excellence in the discipline of Sports Business Management.
In 2018, Zuleikha’s voluntary work within women’s futsal and refugee and asylum seeker football earned her the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) Higher Education Hero award. A nomination was put forward by UCLan’s Football Development Officer, Cian McEvoy who Zuleikha describes as being ‘absolutely pivotal’ in her journey.
“I really wasn’t expecting a nomination for doing what I love! I am passionate about what I do because I see the change sport makes to people’s lives. It’s always nice to receive the recognition, but this is for everyone who has been a part of my journey”.
Zuleikha has been a member of the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA) Youth Panel for the past year where she had the opportunity to contribute ideas to encourage an active nation and support careers within the sport and physical activity sector. Many of UCLan’s sport degrees are now endorsed by CIMSPA which means the degrees are certified as meeting employer-set professional standards that make clear the job roles a student completing the programme is qualified for.
“It was my first experience on a youth panel and meeting like-minded young people who are passionate about enhancing the reputation of the sport and physical activity industry. It’s been great to keep in touch with all the contacts I’ve made along the way”.
Talking about her time as an undergraduate student at UCLan, she commented: “I thoroughly enjoyed the degree, how it got me to think more critically and the opportunities that came with it. I would say sport and volunteering played a big part in my journey. I played for the basketball, badminton and futsal team and the volunteering opportunities I engaged in with the Students’ Union and Centre for Volunteering and Community Leadership developed me as a person.
“I’ve developed many transferable skills such as communication, leadership, teamwork, and resilience. I am now working on a research paper on the underrepresentation of minority ethnic women in leadership roles and a call for change in the football industry. I would like to thank my mother who has been a driving force throughout my years at university in encouraging me to pursue my aspirations and goals”.
When asked about her favourite thing about UCLan, Zuleikha states: “I’d have to say amazing sports facilities such as the Sports Arena and the Sir Tom Finney Sports Centre which are free to UCLan students. Also, the student support services have been a great help such as Wiser and Careers helping me prepare for my assignments and future”.
30 April 2020