Safety measures for women not enough

17 March 2021

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Commenting on the police response to women and girls in London attending a vigil for Sarah Everard and speaking out about male violence, ActionAid UK’s deputy director of policy, advocacy and programmes, Lee Margaret Webster said: "The policing decisions made in response to women who were sad, hurt and angry last weekend, and the subsequent new safety measures, show that the authorities still are not really listening to and addressing the concerns and needs of women and girls.

"More than anything we need transformational programmes that address violence at its roots – that support women and girls who speak out about their experiences, and challenge the misogynistic attitudes and structures that lead to male violence.

"Funding needs to flow urgently to local women’s rights organisations, who are on the front lines of response - changing behaviours, running shelters and services, and responding to cases. They are the experts and they are extremely dedicated, yet they face chronic shortages.

"A strong and gender-responsive justice system is also vital. Police and public officials need to be trained to take women’s reports of violence and threats of violence seriously. And survivors need to be offered a place of safety and supported in going to court.

"ActionAid knows this is the most effective way forward from its work with women and girls in over 40 countries. In 2016, we launched our Safe Cities campaign across Africa, Asia and Latin America, with the aim of improving safety, mobility and access to public services for women and girls living in poverty.

"This did involve better street lighting and CCTV cameras in some cities but also required numerous protests; robust new laws, upheld by local communities; and more safe spaces – which we are now building on with other campaigns.

"It also proved a lot more urgently has to be done worldwide to end violence against women and girls for good. Every case of violence should be treated as an aberration, and a gross human rights violation. Yet for every one that rightly gains attention, there are countless others – particularly for minoritized women and girls - that go unnoticed or that are regarded as an unfortunate part of life."