Sheffield-based anti-street harassment group to shine a light on the issue of women’s safety in the city’s parks

Written by Hannah Richardson

Following the murder of Sarah Everard, Sheffield’s businesses and organisations have pledged donations of lights for an anti-harassment protest in one of the city’s parks.

To highlight the risks women have to take every day, the anti-street harassment organisation, Our Bodies Our Streets, are organising a Safer Parks After Dark campaign. They have called on local businesses and community groups to donate lights for a temporary installation and are encouraging people from across the city to collaborate with them at their meeting tonight.

Our community collaborators meeting is tomorrow. Everyone is welcome so sign up now! Can’t wait see you all there ⭐️

Posted by Our Bodies Our Streets on Sunday, 21 March 2021

One of the founders of the organisation, Caitlin Knowles, said they hope that, by illuminating the issue in this way, they will not only create a safer environment for the women using the park, but they will also generate further conversation around the problems of sexual harassment.

She said: “In recent weeks, we have seen that even if women do the right things and take the right actions, we’re still not safe.”

The organisation originally began as a response to female students at the University of Sheffield feeling unable to exercise after dark.

Miss Knowles, who has been on the receiving end of street harassment since the age of 11, said that, when she first arrived in Sheffield as a student, her parents warned her not to walk in the parks around the university at night.

She said: “I think for me, to not have to have that conversation is what I would like to achieve. We shouldn’t have to have that conversation.”

Ultimately, Our Bodies Our Streets, backed by Hallam MP Olivia Blake, are calling for Sheffield City Council to improve lighting in parks across the city so that women can exercise after dark safely and without fear. This comes after a recent petition received over 4000 signatures.

The petition, started by member Evie Hairsine, states of the lack of lighting: “This is stopping us from accessing green spaces after 4pm in winter, which has negative implications for our mental and physical health, especially during lockdown, and prevents us from feeling like equal citizens with a right to use our city.”

The recent tragedy of Sarah Everard’s murder has provided an undeniable impetus for conversations around women’s safety and there remains a sense of outrage around the official responses to this.

The forced cancellation of vigils across the country for Miss Everard two weeks ago, after police threatened organisers and attendees with steep fines for breaching COVID-19 regulations, caused public backlash.

Kerry Lindeque, a member of the Our Bodies Our Streets organisation, said: “The response of the Met police was a violent overreaction. The threats, arrests, and use of force was entirely unnecessary.

“Considering that Sarah Everard was murdered by a Met officer, to see them violently shutting down these protests was sickening.”

A second member, Connie Rigby, added: “I think they made the situation so much worse because obviously right now there isn’t much trust in the police at all within so many communities. So, to play the safety card is just unbelievable right now.”

To get involved in the campaign, contact Our Bodies Our Streets on Facebook or sign the petition here.

Written by Hannah Richardson

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