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Reclaim The Night This International Women’s Day
Life&Style Writer Frankie Rhodes explains the origins and significance of the ‘Reclaim the Night’ movement, and gives the details of Birmingham’s first ever march in its support, organised by our very own Women’s Officers, which is happening tonight
As a female university student, the threat of violence is quietly present everywhere: in the dark corners of clubs and during the brisk walk home from campus in the evening, the accounts of friends who have been assaulted or drugged ever a present thought. And yet, we live on a relatively safe campus, in a relatively safe area, in a privileged part of the world. But Birmingham’s 'Reclaim The Night' march tonight is not just for the likes of my friends and me, it’s for all women, everywhere, who are facing sexual and domestic violence.
The ‘Reclaim the Night’ movement has a long history in England as part of the Women's Liberation Movement, occurring for the first time in Leeds in 1977. The 60 women who marched up North Street protested against the 'Yorkshire Ripper' murders, as well as the general violence that made women feel afraid within their own home town, forcing them into early curfews and restrictions. Now led by the University of Birmingham's Women's Officers Alif Trevathan and Holly Battrick, in collaboration with GMB Trade Union, this year's march aims to build on such a legacy and protest the pandemic of violence faced by women both in this country and across the world.
“Birmingham’s upcoming 'Reclaim The Night' march is not just for the likes of my friends and me, it’s for all women, everywhere, who are facing sexual and domestic violence
Due to the rise of mainstream feminism, including the surge in commercialisation, with retailers placing an emphasis on ‘Girl Power’ products, it is easy to assume that sexism is becoming a thing of the past. But aside from empowering t-shirts and inclusive beauty campaigns, individuals who identify as women are still facing a staggering level of violence and discrimination. Laura Bates' 2013 book 'Everyday Sexism' revealed shocking statistics such as the fact that 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is still not a crime, and that 1 in 3 women on the planet will be raped or beaten in their lifetime. Such harrowing information can make us feel tempted to shut ourselves up in our rooms, to not go out late at night, to not wear the outfits we want. This march is saying no to being afraid: it's reclaiming the night that has been taken away from us.
And what better time than now? In the wake of the viral #MeToo campaign, and in a city currently hosting the prominent 'Women Power Protest' exhibition, Birmingham is ready for collective action. The march will take place around Broad Street and Victoria Square, with placards strongly encouraged. The confirmed guest speakers are Preet Gill, Birmingham Edgbaston MP; Lisa Thompson, CEO of the Rape and Sexual Violence Project (RSVP); and Aisha Ali-Khan, activist and human rights campaigner. All that is required now is the marchers.
“This year's march aims to build on such a legacy and protest the pandemic of violence faced by women both in this country and across the world
With 1,300 Facebook users currently interested or going to the event, this has the potential to be an exceptional demonstration of Birmingham's resistance to violence against women. But it's extremely important to continue to drum up publicity, to share the event on Facebook and to start making placards. For me, this march is about no longer regarding the city at night as a place to be feared and avoided. But tonight, we will all bring our different incentives for marching, and join in mutual solidarity.
More details of the march tonight can be found here.