In this article, Emma Moseley Policy Officer at Trafford Council explains how GreaterSport’s Right to the Streets is aiming to make streets and public spaces safer for women and girls.
Women’s safety from male violence impacts all women’s lives with 97% of women aged 18 to 24 having experienced sexual harassment in public spaces and more than 70% of women of all ages having endured such behaviour.
While the vast majority of male violence against women happens in the home, concerns of safety on the streets has been identified as a key barrier to women and girls accessing or engaging with physical activity, active travel, and sports or cultural events in their area.
It is the responsibility of local government to make it their collective mission to intervene to address this massive, but often invisible, barrier to women’s freedom and ability to access the public realm.
A total of £120 million has been awarded through the Home Officer Safer Street Fund to projects across England and Wales, with funding being awarded to more than 100 projects that promise to make our streets safer by tackling violence against women and girls.
The money has gone to police forces, local authorities, British Transport Police and eligible community groups to prevent violence against women and girls in public, neighbourhood crime and anti-social behaviour.
These projects have decided to tackle this issue in a range of ways from rolling out extra CCTV and streetlighting in their communities and to expanding work to change attitudes and behaviours.
One such project has been GreaterSport’s Right to the Streets project which is being delivered in partnership with Trafford Council, Open Data Manchester and a number of local stakeholder groups, running from September 2022 to September 2023.
GreaterSport were awarded £490,448, which is being used to explore ways to make streets and public spaces safer and more welcoming for women and girls so they feel a sense of belonging in their community and are able to live active lives. With a focus in North Trafford around Old Trafford, Gorse Hill, Longford and Stretford, an area that contains parks, canals, colleges, civic buildings, stadiums and housing plus many other local assets.
The project is focused on using community action and feminist approaches to tackle violence against women and girls at the root, rather than putting the emphasis on victims to change their behaviours and limit their freedoms (such victim blaming is shown to not reduce male violence behaviours).
‘Right to the Streets’ includes the following activities:
- Bystander intervention and allyship training to empower people to make informed decisions when witnessing gender-based violence, hate crime, or street harassment, emphasising that anyone and everyone can be allies in tackling Violence Against Women and Girls.
- Workshops delivered by Open Data Manchester and Diva to help inform the project campaign, organised walks, arts installations, and project evaluation.
- Organised walks led by Open Data Manchester with local residents to identify and understand common routes and locations based on lived experience and perceptions of safety.
- Creative art installations around the local area co-designed by arts organisations and people in the community to make the streets more welcoming. The chosen streets will be informed by the organised walks and other learnings.
- Walking, wheeling and cycling initiatives to encourage more engagement and participation in active travel.
- Connecting with others in the area to get a range of perspectives and expertise.
The project has been sure to engage with local groups already working in this area and to support them to build a solid foundation that will extend beyond the life of the funding. This funding has also provided a much-needed cash injection into an area and a sector that is often neglected by national policy makers.
As a policy officer at Trafford Council, I enabled the project’s realisation by using local evidence from an Equality and Safety survey, horizon scanned for the funding opportunity, helped design and develop the bid with partners, worked with project leads and local residents, took part in bystander training, identified local voices, built connections, promoted project activity and contributed to podcasts.
This kind of cross organisation, close local focussed working, along with local knowledge and strong community links, is vital to addressing gender-based violence and feelings of street safety. Local authorities are very well placed to support much needed work in this area and address the global issue of gender-based violence and street safety on a local level. As outlined by Trafford Councillor Joanne Harding:
“One of our main priorities is that all our communities are happy, healthy and safe and this funding will do a lot to secure that. No one should face barriers to being involved in the many culture and sport opportunities Trafford has to offer just because they don’t feel safe getting there.
Therefore, it’s massively important that the funding we have helped secure is used to make sure our sport and cultural events are accessible, and women and girls are safe and feel safe when walking our streets.”
Using the opportunity of Right to the Streets, Trafford Council has also secured funding to deliver a Policy Lab on tackling VAWG working with 8 other councils across the UK. The evidence and knowledge from this project will be used to share approaches from councils across the UK.