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Gendered violence should be at the forefront of people's minds

Jasmine Heaton tells Now Then why gender-based violence is important for everybody to address, and why two feminist organisations are organising monthly vigils. 

Attendees at a vigil against gender-based violence at Devonshire Green
Socia Sheffield

The Women’s Equality Party is a feminist political party set up in the United Kingdom in 2015 with the aim of highlighting women’s issues that are prevalent in today’s society. They have partnered up with Our Bodies Our Streets to run monthly vigils; this month's vigil was part of Festival Of Debate.

It took place on Devonshire Green, Sheffield with guest speakers sharing their stories on why more needs to be done to make sure gendered violence is at the forefront of people's minds. A very poignant poem was also shared by one of the speakers, who highlighted the struggles women face on a daily basis.

It was very moving as every guest speaker had a story or statistic to share that highlighted the need for change to happen. On average, two women are being murdered each week at the hands of men.

The names of the women who had lost their lives to gendered violence in the past few months were then read aloud, followed by a two-minute silence.

Candles and memorials at a WEP / OBOS vigil against gender-based violence
Amy Mullen-Brown

Jasmine Heaton is a volunteer at the Women's Equality Party. She spoke to Now Then to share her experiences on gender-based issues and why she joined the party:

When did you first start at Women’s Equality Party and what motivated you to do so?

I first joined the Women’s Equality Party this time last year. I went through issues which highlighted to me injustices that are in the justice system, with CPS and the police and how unfair things are for women. I then realised that only 3% of rape claims result in conviction. I started the process of my experience back in January 2020. For context, the case is still open and it's still being investigated two and a bit years later. So that's how slow they are.

There’s been back and forth and we've had to really push for things. So it was that frustration that it caused within me. I was just so angry. And I just wanted to find an outlet where I could use that anger to try and help bring this awareness out.

I mean, I'm 24, I've got a lot of young female friends of a similar age. I can count, I can fill up my hand with the number of friends that I know that have been through things and nothing has happened with the police. I think that kind of spurred me into wanting to use my anger and my awareness that had been brought to my own experience to try and push that awareness and to try and join a political party.

So for me, the biggest issue is this issue of gendered violence and the lack of accountability for men. There should be more safety on the streets as well. So I felt that the Women's Equality Party was the only local group that I felt really recognised that and also wanted to fight for the same things.

What are your aims with the Women's Equality Party?

I think at the minute we've all chosen, as a branch, to focus on the issue of gendered violence. That's why we've been arranging these vigils since last November in collaboration with Our Bodies Our Streets. With the cases of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa, there was a lot of conversation in the media that was happening about these specific cases. They were awful incidents but there just seemed to be no kind of awareness in the mainstream media.

This is happening to two women a week, dying due to gendered violence and we wanted it to be brought to light for everyone who has experienced it and tragically lost their lives.

What people make up the Women’s Equality Party?

We all work together as a team at the Women's Equality Party - even if they have only been a member for a month, if anyone comes and says ‘I want to try and do this campaign’ or push to a councillor something important, we will all help this happen.

It’s not a hierarchical construct where no one gets listened to, it's very much like a forum to enable everyone within to act upon change.

Can you tell me why it's so important for violence against women and girls to be front and centre as an issue?

It’s such a prominent issue, you only have to speak to girls and women in any way about this and they will talk about their issues and experiences as it is so common. There's a massive disparity across gender lines for it to be such a huge issue that all women are scared to walk home at night or women are too scared to put on a certain top. I mean I went out in a crop top 6 months ago which was a tie back and I've never worn it again as someone undid it in Bierkeller.

Men don’t have to think about that, but we do. We have taken on so much accountability in terms of looking after ourselves and protecting ourselves when actually the problem is with men. We need to step up and call out the behaviour of their friends.

Even before, I saw some posters in town which were against gendered violence and the ironic thing was, I went round the corner and two minutes later I was wolf whistled by some guy in a van. It’s not okay and needs to be stopped.

Can you tell me about the vigils and why they are so important?

In terms of the vigils we’ve been running since November, I think they are massively important - we really need to keep this conversation going. This is happening every single week- two women are dying, there’s massive disparities in terms of intersectionality.

There’s so many things which aren’t registered with people everyday and as women it helped me and would make things better if we all recognised what’s happening to all of us.

Learn more

The Women's Equality Party in Sheffield and Our Bodies Our Streets hold a monthly vigil on the first Sunday of every month in Devonshire Green.

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