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Monthly vigils for victims of gender-based violence

Council leader Terry Fox to speak at the vigil against gender-based violence at Devonshire Green on Sunday, organised by the Women's Equality Party and Our Bodies Our Streets. 

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

There are women alive right now as I write this who will not be alive by the time you read my words. They will have been killed by men.

The Femicide Census shows that on average in the UK, one woman is killed by a man every three days. Some of these women’s stories may be picked up by the media, but the vast majority of these deaths will go largely unnoticed except, of course, by those who knew and love them.

Gender-based violence is built into the structure of our society and it intersects with other forms of oppression such as racism - remember what happened to the murdered sisters Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman? Police officers at the crime scene took and shared on WhatsApp photos of their dead bodies.

It threads its way through the establishments, businesses, rules and principles that govern how we all live our lives, how we view and interact with each other. It is present in the sexual harassment of women and girls as they walk our streets, exercise in our parks and learn in our schools and universities. It shows up in sexual harassment at work. It is evident in the shockingly low rape prosecution rates. It is killing us.

When some victims’ stories do gain national media coverage and enter our consciousness, such as Sarah Everard’s nearly a year ago and Sabina Nessa’s in September 2021, our institutions tend to respond in the same, tired, infuriating ways: they blame the victims with some version of ‘women shouldn’t go out alone at night’ and ‘they need to do more to protect themselves’ as if male violence is inevitable. It is not.

The focus is always on what women should be doing rather than on what men can and must do. It’s exhausting. And nothing changes.

That is why in Sheffield the Women’s Equality Party and local campaign group Our Bodies Our Streets have come together to organise monthly vigils for victims of gender-based violence. We are determined to remember all victims, not just those who make the headlines.

Each month we read aloud the names of the women and girls who have been killed since the previous month. In doing so, we are creating a safe, respectful space to come together, remember and mourn and to draw strength from each other to demand action that will lead to lasting change.

Locally we are calling on Sheffield City Council and South Yorkshire Police to step up to the mark and commit to meaningful change. Our focus on these two organisations is because they are responsible for serving and protecting all of Sheffield’s citizens, especially those who are most vulnerable.

We are challenging them to become White Ribbon accredited organisations. This would mean committing to improve organisational culture and to improve the knowledge and skills of staff to address violence against women amongst other things. By doing this they will be choosing to take a strategic approach to ending gender-based violence and will be taking the lead ensuring that men and boys understand that it is up to them to be part of the change that is needed.

The monthly vigils for victims of gender-based violence take place on the first Sunday of the month from 6-7pm on Devonshire Green in the tarmaced space close to the road. The next vigil is Sunday 6th February. Join us to add your voice and call for change.

More Democracy & Activism

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