On Saturday 16 November 6 UNISON Essex members supported the second Reclaim the Night March organised by the Centre for Action on Rape and Abuse (CARA).
The first March which took place in 2018 was so successful that CARA decided to make it an annual event. Two UNISON Essex members had travelled from Southend and Chelmsford to attend the March and Helen from Southend was accompanied by some young women from “Girls to the Front,” an excellent group of girls who are smart and funny, kind and creative.
The March was a show of strength and a collective demand for freedom from sexual violence, domestic abuse, street harassment, rape culture, victim blaming and all forms of male violence against women. Its purpose was to highlight the reality of sexual violence and say loud and clear that it has a huge impact on the lives of women and girls. It was about reclaiming public spaces for women and girls – after dark and during the day, rejecting victim blaming and creating the expectation that women and girls should have as much freedom in the way they behave as men and boys.
Taking place against a backdrop of record funding cuts to public services which impact more heavily on women (as both service users and service providers at risk of losing their jobs). The two-child limit, the benefit cap and the infamous rape clause increases the social and financial pressure on women and their families whilst the layer of protection offered by well-funded public services is slowly removed. UNISON campaigns for proper funding of public services and support Labour in this election as they pledge to increase funding for public services, provide a real commitment to rebuild the NHS and decent pay for public sector workers after years of pay freezes.
Reclaim the Night was supported by Tina Mckay, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Colchester and several women Labour councillors. UNISON members from other branches were also there together with women who work for community and voluntary groups providing services for survivors of sexual abuse or violence. It was an opportunity to promote UNISON Eastern young members campaign “Uncomfortable yet?” highlighting the issue of sexual harassment in the work place and how UNISON can help. As we marched through Colchester town centre with flags, banners and lights we made plenty of noise and received encouragement and support from people out on the streets. It was great to see so much solidarity on such an important issue.
Thanks to Jenni, Helen, Chris and Helen for supporting the March and hope to see more UNISON Essex members on the March next year.