Hundreds of North East women will be coming together this evening (24 November) as part of the region's Reclaim the Night event in Newcastle, hosted by the Northern TUC.
Attendees will be gathering at the Memorial garden at Sunderland Civic Centre and then walking en masse down to Mowbray Park for a rally and candle-lit vigil. Speakers at the rally include, Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, Clare Williams of the TUC Women's Group and Unison Regional Convenor and Clare Philipson, Director of Wearside Women in Need.
In Britain there are an estimated 47,000 rapes every year. Each year an estimated 300,000 women are sexually assaulted (British Crime Survey 2001), yet Britain's conviction rate is the lowest ever at just 5.3 per cent. When Reclaim the Night marches were first started in the 1970s women were appalled that only one in three rape complaints led to a conviction; today that figure is one in 20.
This is why the Northern TUC has revived the tradition of Reclaim the Night. All women have the right to use public spaces both in the daytime and after dark without the fear of sexual harassment and assault. They urge people to join with women around the world to mark the United Nations International Day to End Violence Against Women and to "take back your night."
Chair of the Northern TUC's Women's Group, Clare Williams said: "I think it is really important that we come together to mark the United Nations International day to End Violence Against Women - and significant that this has now become an annual event in our calendar. We'd all rather there didn't have to be such a poignant reminder that a lot of women have suffered and unfortunately, that many are still suffering from physical and mental violence or living under the threat of it. However, as the name of the event suggests, this is also very much about empowering women to take back their night, and educating others to help them."
MP for Washington and Sunderland West, Sharon Hodgson said:'As the United Nations states, "the right of women and girls to live free of violence is inalienable and fundamental. However, for many women across the globe, and even on our doorsteps, this is too often a right that is usurped, contravened or ignored.
"Events like this one serve to illustrate that violence, in whatever form, is still very much an issue and barrier for women, and ending it must be at the heart of any efforts to secure equality. It is imperative that we all unite in these efforts and I would urge as many people as possible to start by joining myself and others reclaiming the night in Sunderland this Saturday."
Clare Philipson, Director of Wearside Women in Need said: "Too many women and girls operate under a curfew; as soon as it's dark they are scared to go out. Too many elderly women dread the loneliness of long winter nights; instead of being able to pop round to their friends for a chat, or attend social events they barricade themselves in their homes, afraid to go out in case they are mugged, or assaulted.
"This has to stop. We want a world in which all women and girls can go about their daily lives without needing to be part of a group, without being afraid of standing at bus stops, worrying about where to safely park their car, or feeling terrified of shadows on quiet streets...That's why we are marching. We're reclaiming our basic human right to a life free from the fear of rape and male violence."