Thousands of students from Manchester are set to ‘Reclaim the Night’ by marching through the streets of the city to highlight growing violence towards women, street harassment, and ‘victim-blaming’.
Jess Lishak, women’s officer at the University of Manchester Students’ Union, outlined the importance of the event as being an “incredibly empowering and uplifting event for women and people who have experienced these issues” in a statement to The Mancunion.
Last year, over 2,000 students, and men and women from the general public, took to the streets of Manchester to make the march the largest-ever Reclaim the Night event in the UK. This year, though, organisers are hoping to make the event even bigger on 25 February.
The importance of the event has been highlighted in statistics, such as those from a Home Office study, which showed one in five women to have been sexually assaulted since the age of 16. Despite this, only 15 per cent felt able to report incidents to the authorities.
Other statistics from Rape Crisis have shown there to be around eleven adult rapes happening every hour in England and Wales, while a recent survey brought to light that one in five women experienced “unwanted sexual contact” in school. A further one in three female students in the UK have reported being sexually assaulted or abused while at university, reports The Telegraph.
Lishak said: “Unfortunately, it’s the case that, right now, if you bring women from across the world together, the experiences they’re most likely to share are of violence, or of the fear of violence. Regardless of our differences, women know that overwhelming feeling of fear.”
The women’s officer has also described the number of women disclosing their experiences of sexual assault, rape, and violence to her as being “shockingly well past the three-digit mark.”
Lishak also condemned the controversial tampon tax policy, and said: “Everywhere we look, women are bearing the brunt for the harm, fear, and violence inflicted on us - psychologically, physically, and now financially too.”
However, rather than let such facts silence the students of Manchester, Lishak said they light a fire under “one of the strongest forces you can come across.” She added: “Women will rise and, collectively, we have the power to fight, we have the power to challenge - and we have the power to change.”
This year, uniquely, there will also be a youth and families block, focusing on the need for proper education on consent and healthy relationships. This follows on from sessions the organisers have been putting on in local youth groups and schools about campaigning and the issues Reclaim the Night raises.
Alongside this, they have also been conducting pop-up events in areas around the city where students feel most unsafe, ‘reclaiming’ them for a few hours with music, poetry, and light.
Lishak explained all this work is about “building a movement,” adding: “Reclaim the Night is not just about reclaiming one street on one night, but a force for change and empowerment for as many people as possible.”
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