Georgia Gould, Leader of Camden Council on women’s safety in Camden

Picture: PA/Lauren Hurley - Credit: PA/Lauren Hurley

Picture: PA/Lauren Hurley – Credit: PA/Lauren Hurley

Last Tuesday (16 March) Camden Council lit its offices orange – in remembrance, love and solidarity with Sarah Everard and all women who have lost their lives to gender-based violence in the last year. Orange is the colour of the United Nations campaign on ending violence against women and the building will remain lit every evening this week.

The murder of Sarah Everard has shocked and shaken us all – and brought to the surface powerful feelings of anger, disgust and real vulnerability. For many women, it is a symbol of how violence, intimidation and discrimination against women continues to go unchecked and unaddressed by our society.

We have always passionately believed Camden should be a place where women feel safe and can live, work and socialise – day or night – without fear of being harassed or attacked. Yet the evidence shows that the lived reality for women is very different – 80% of women in the UK have reported they have been sexually harassed in public. We also know that the experience of harassment, abuse and violence is disproportionate and that there are increased barriers to safety and justice for Black, Asian and other ethnic women, for transgender women, lesbian and bisexual women and for women with disabilities.

In Camden we have a duty, as a council, as citizens, to do whatever we can to end this and to create a much fairer and safer society for women.

Ultimately this is about changing male behaviours and we want to raise a generation of citizens who understand and respect women’s rights. That’s why, over the past few years we’ve been working closely with our schools to ensure there is a huge emphasis on healthy relationships, inappropriate behaviour, and consent through the relationships and sex education curriculum.

We also commission the Camden and Islington sexual health network of services to support secondary schools to provide workshops for students, 1:1 and group sessions around developing respectful and healthy relationships among young people. Over the last two years Camden has also funded ‘Beat It’, a play and workshops for secondary schools delivered by Diverse Voices that focuses on identifying sexually harmful behaviour, consent and forming healthy relationships.

In 2019, we established the women’s forum to give a voice to all women and girls who make Camden the special place it is, and to ensure they can live freely and safely without prejudice or discrimination. However, we know there is always more to be done and we will continue to build on this vital work to ensure long-term changes continue to be made.

The Council also has a critical role in supporting victims and those at risk of domestic abuse and we as a community have a shared responsibility to tackle harmful and pervasive gender stereotypes, to tackle misogyny and to stop the violence and abuse that means public and private space is still not safe for so many women and girls.

There is also a huge need to accompany this focus on education with progressive legislation and stronger measures and enforcement to keep women safe. We continue to work closely with the police to identify and hold perpetrators to account, be it on domestic and sexual violence, or harassment and assault. While it is not a solution in itself, over the last two years, we’ve improved CCTV and lighting across the borough, to improve the street environment.

No woman should feel unsafe in our borough and we can all play our part to call out, challenge and change ourselves, our friends, families and communities, to make Camden a safe place for all women and girls.

Cllr Georgia Gould, Leader of the Council and Camden Labour Group.