Time’s Up: Sheffield campaigners rally against sexual harassment

Women in Sheffield took to the town centre, rallying in solidarity with those who have been victims of sexual abuse.

The Women’s Day of Action rally, was organised by SheFest, and was held outside of the Town Hall, on 21st January 2018. The date marked the first anniversary of the Women’s March, which took place in Washington D.C, the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration. Last year’s march was symbolic of the upset, many felt towards the new President, who came to power despite allegations of sexual misconduct.

Standing in the rain, the women in Sheffield held signs that read: Time’s Up and Me Too. These slogans represent campaigns that have taken momentum, most notably, as a response to harrowing reports of inappropriate, sexual behaviours across the worlds of Hollywood, Politics and Sport.

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Campaigners in Sheffield

 

2018 marks 100 years since women won the right to vote in the UK. However, this only applied to women aged over 30, who met certain property ownership specifications. It was another 10 years before all women aged over 21 gained the right to vote in the UK.

“We need to keep (this) as an example until all women are free and equal,” said Beckie Brackett, the Co-Founder of SheFest.

Brackett introduced leaders from the local community to address the campaigners. They spoke about the place women have in the world, reminding the crowd that the fight for equality may be long, but it is worthy.

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This woman calls for equality

“There are lots of men, who over the past year, have been running scared. Men who have been behaving the way, they thought they’d always get away with […] It’s not going to be easy to change,” said former Green Party Leader, Natalie Bennett.                                            

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Natalie Bennett

Also taking to the steps of the Town Hall was Annalisa Jones, Co-Founder of Our Mel.

“We need a complete cultural transformation if we are to eradicate sexual assault in our lifetime. It means we must build our families differently, engage our communities and confront some of our long held assumptions about ourselves.”

“Are we really committed to the hard work of ending sexual violence?” she asked.

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Annalisa Jones: Co-Founder of Our Mel

Answering ‘yes’ to Annalisa’s question was activist Tchiyiwe Chihana, a poet and author, from Waverley.

“Our takeover of the streets is both empowering and a statement in itself that we are nobody’s guests, and that we are speaking up for ourselves in alliance with other women across the world. The nightmare of misogyny needs endless confrontation from a united front for it to come to an end.”

“My presence at the rally is a reflection of the undeterred black woman at the heart of the feminist agenda. My absence would have been counterproductive to the efforts of the global sisterhood. Our visibility at such events is crucial to re-establishing that we matter, even in spaces where we are often invisible.”

It was the concept of visibility that Lara Bundock, the CEO of The Snowdrop Project, brought to the crowd’s attention, as she spoke of the 11 million women and children believed to be trafficked into sexual exploitation.

“When statistics become names and faces, you have to start taking action,” said Lara.

“For those of us who know the names and the faces, and the ‘Me Too’s’, I’d encourage you to be a safe space.”

Speakers at the rally

Percentage of women aged 16 to 59 who were victims of any sexual abuse. _England and Wales, year ending March 2016.*England and wales, year ending 2016

Louise Haigh, Labour MP for Sheffield Heeley, addressed the women, saying:

“The rights that we have fought together for, for so many years are not set in stone, and they can be taken away from us in the blink of an eye. […] Whether it’s the fact that cuts to tax credits included the pernicious rape clause, or the fact that 86% of cuts for austerity are borne by women […] Women have suffered over the last few years.”

“(But) everyday, I have the privilege of meeting amazing women, campaigning for rights, who inspire me and drive me to fight harder.”

Maureen Storey, the Director of Vida Sheffield drew the rally to a close. She lead the crowd in chants for gender equality, and against patriarchy and violence, before playing a recording of Oprah Winfrey’s memorable 2018 Golden Globes speech.

The rousing words resounded around Sheffield’s Town Hall, letting all who could hear them know, that the time is up!

Luchia Robinson

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