I am the lead officer for Safer Streets. I oversee three programmes of work seeking to address community safety though a range of projects that include measures such as CCTV, lighting and art, alongside behaviour change projects which includes work with schools to challenge underlying issues that lead to violence against women and girls, such as stereotyping.
The aim of Safer Streets is to address the root causes of violence against women and girls in public places, during the day time and at night. It’s a really important piece of work because it’s giving us an opportunity to test and trial some different ways of approaching the issue, such as an intelligence mapping service to enable women to report areas where they don’t feel safe, and work with businesses to respond to sexual violence. The whole programme is about collective action; spotting unhealthy behaviour, calling it out and ownership.
There are some projects supporting safety planning like our stay safe app trial which gives women working in hospitality the opportunity to use an app that can raise an alarm if anything happens to them when they are walking home alone at night. Women shouldn’t need to use apps or change what they do to avoid violence, but until we live in a society without violence, something needs to be done to address the here and now. We’re working with the police and specialist services to deliver this work and I feel really privileged to be a part of something trying to make a difference.
As a woman and as a mother, my experience is of an attitude towards women and girls that exists throughout society suppressing potential and creating a space for sexism, microaggression, misogyny, and violence to occur. I know that my own experience is not exceptional, it’s the experience of many women which is what makes this agenda so important. My daughter is only 5. She’s already been told by some boys that she’s only allowed to like pink and purple. She said to me ‘boys get all the other colours, that’s not fair’. My daughter also thinks that boys of her age get ‘all the cool clothes’ (the ones which are in primary colours, have proper scary dinosaurs on them, and trucks). We hunt around and buy stuff in the boys section to find things she wants to wear, but she doesn’t want to have to buy stuff in the ‘boy section’. Take that example, roll it forward to see women under represented in key areas such as STEM, defence, and politics; women you find here have made it, in spite of everything society has told them, and all of the additional challenges they face. Being told you can only like certain things, narrowing your options or outlook whether you’re a boy or a girl, that’s where it all starts, and everyone taking responsibility for bucking that trend, is what breaking the bias means to me.
To start creating a more equitable world, I think it would be massive step forward to make children’s clothes and toys unisex/gender neutral, and for parents everywhere to honestly let their children decide what they want to wear and play with. That will start to break down a lot of barriers and help children understand that they are of equal value and have equal opportunity. We can’t wait for my daughter and her peers to grow up and be the generation that changes things. We need to take positive action like we’re taking under the safer streets agenda now to challenge the status quo.