A guest post by Sian Norris of the Bristol Feminist Network:
Friday 26th February is the second year that Bristol Feminist Network will be heading up a Reclaim the Night march. It’s a chance for women and men in Bristol to unite and march to make a stand against violence against women.
Last year we had massive success with the march, with over 500 participants and £350 raised for local charity One25 who help sex workers who have been sexually assaulted.
This year we’re aiming to be even bigger! We start the night with a vigil at 5pm on College Green, before the Bristol African Sambista’s drums start to beat at 6pm and the march begins. We will then be marching through Bristol, before gathering at local arts collective the Island for speeches and a party.
This is the 2nd year I have been involved in Reclaim the Night and on a personal level it is such an exciting, energising and uplifting experience. Although we are marching to fight back against a horrific crime, there is a real sense of energy and passion when such a large group bring their voices together to say no to violence.
Our aims for Reclaim the Night are simple and achievable. To educate and fight against rape myths, to continue to secure funding for services that help and support victims of sexual violence, and to improve justice for victims and survivors. We still live in a society which views women who have been raped or assaulted as responsible for their attack, and where the conviction rate for rape is shockingly low. Reclaim the Night is about saying that we have had enough of injustice, and that we stand in solidarity and support to fight against violence.
Bristol Feminist Network has been working with various agencies, centres and charities in Bristol to ensure that the aims of Reclaim the Night reflect the needs and wants of Bristol residents. This has included working alongside the police, Safer Bristol, the city council, Rape Crisis, One25, Fawcett and much more. It was vital to us that Reclaim the Night was about all the women in Bristol, and an event that all women could feel involved in.
We are lucky enough to have some wonderful speakers on the night, including women from Amnesty International, Rape Crisis, Fawcett, One25 and the Domestic Abuse forum. Last year the speeches were one of my favourite parts of the night, a real reminder as to why we were marching, to continue the fight against violence and fear. Reclaim the Night isn’t just about the 26th February. It is about taking the message of the march and the aims and affecting real change in our city and society to end the scourge that is violence against women.
The night will end with music and dancing, but the fight will continue after the club lights go up.
Men are welcome at Bristol Reclaim the Night, however we have a section for all self-identified women only that will lead the march, which we ask male attendants to respect.