On Thursday 25th February 2016, Reclaim the Night will once again take over the streets of Manchester, protesting against street harassment and sexual violence to women.
It is calling out on injustice and predation and showing that the women and supportive men of Manchester will fight until they feel safe in their city. The sexual violence epidemic, as it is now being called, is being fought through a “neon parade” heading along Wilmslow Road and Oxford Road, to Manchester Students’ Union where a festival of female empowerment awaits.
Women’s officer Jess Lishak has been one of the biggest driving forces in both the 2015 and 2016 Reclaim the Night events here in Manchester, and is striving to ensure that each year hits even harder than before. “We’re building a movement so that 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.”
So, what makes Reclaim the Night so important? In 2015, The Guardian reported that 1,802 cases of rape were dealt with by Greater Manchester Police and 30 incidents involved university students in the winter semester of 2014 alone, according to Manchester Evening News.
In spite of this, only 15 per cent of rapes are thought to be reported worldwide and the conviction rate is a shocking 5.3 per cent. With facts and figures like these, it’s no wonder that 95 per cent of women don’t feel safe at night and 73 per cent have a genuine concern about being raped.
Furthermore, over a third of people in Britain in 2005 commented that women were at least partly to blame for the sexual violence inflicted upon them. Therefore, as Jess Lishak reiterates: “Reclaim the Night is important for so many reasons; it draws attention to how much an issue street harassment and sexual violence against women is both to the general public and the authorities, but it also creates an incredibly empowering and uplifting event for women and people who have experienced these issues”.
Alongside its goal of raising awareness and protesting its cause, this event is able to bring people together in support of one another in what Jess calls a “truly liberating experience” as many students report back to her with the positive impact it has had on them.
With its claims of being “bigger, brighter and louder than ever”, 2016 hopes to target more people and more problems. Similar to last year, the parade will be split into blocks, a block for LQBTQ identifiers and a block for youth and families will be joining the original women-only and mixed gender block formation.
The purpose of the youth and families block is to advocate for compulsory PSHE education teaching about consent and the idea of a healthy relationship as part of a compulsory curriculum from an early age which has been campaigned for in local schools and youth groups by the Reclaim the Night team in weeks leading up.
A pre-march event in the Pankhurst Centre by Manchester Royal Infirmary at 5:30pm will be taking place as an opportunity for them to come together beforehand.
In the same manner as previous years, an after party will be taking place in the Student’s Union to showcase women talent through live music, speakers, poets and DJs.
Previews of the afterparty have been given throughout these weeks leading up, described as “pop-up events in areas of the city that students identified as places they feel most unsafe, reclaiming them for a few hours with music, poetry and light and spreading the word about the event and the cause even further”.
Thursday 25th February calls for students and locals, men and women, adults and children to get on board, unite and Reclaim the Night!
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