Reclaim the Night: Students protest for the safety of women and marginalised genders in Manchester

“The taboo around sex and speaking up about assault needs to end”

At 6:30pm on Wednesday night hundreds of students gathered in Fallowfield to join the Reclaim the Night march. Protesters gathered to show their solidarity with the annual campaign against sexual assault and gender-based violence.

Originally starting in Leeds in 1977, this year the campaign is focused on raising awareness of sexual violence on campus, building a speak-up culture and calling it by its name.

The march was scheduled to start at Owens Park before protestors began their one-and-a-half-mile journey down Wilmslow Road towards the Students’ Union.

Students held handmade banners and placards, chanting catchy slogans such as “Whose streets? Our streets!” and “My body, My choice” as bystanders watched from shop windows and showered the crowds with their support.

Once demonstrators reached the rally at the Students’ Union, a variety of speakers addressed the crowd. These included our elected Wellbeing & Liberation Officer Celina Pereira, students working at the grassroots for liberation, including Feminist Collective and our Disabled Students’ Association Chair, and the University of Manchester’s Report & Support team.

Additionally, the leader of Manchester City Council Bev Craig spoke at the event.

Transcripts of the speeches are available on the Students’ Union Website.

Celina Pereira, the Students’ Union Well Being & Liberation Officer, said: “We are standing here for those who have been robbed of their body, of their rights and of their lives. We are standing here to call an end to gender based violence and sexual harassment.

“When I was asked to decide a focus for this years Reclaim the Night, it felt like an impossible task to cut down the problem into things we could actually tackle. As a student, I saw sexual violence everywhere. I was not prepared for that. None of us were.

“They do not tell you the reality of being a woman around campus. So I decided to work on it. To teach men about consent, to improve the reporting system and survivors support.”

Sohini, one of the speakers and a member of Resist Rape Culture, said: “The taboo around sex and speaking up about assault needs to end. This is something that needs to be demonstrated in education and media – where we need more than just white women talking about these issues”.

The deputy chair of UoM Feminist Collective, Asli, told The Manchester Tab: “The Feminist Collective have been doing a variety of focus groups and promoting events alongside the SU to fundraise and raise awareness, such as self-defence classes, panel discussions on education surrounding consent with other local groups such as Resist Rape Culture and The Collective Future’s Project, and banner making sessions.

“By meeting like-minded people and engaging in work beyond the march, the Feminist Collective is proud to be bringing student activism to the streets.”

We spoke to students at the protest to find out their thoughts and opinions on this years campaign. The Tab spoke with University of Manchester students Grace and Jenna. Both had attended the last years protest and were here again to support the campaign.

They told us: “I think it is really good! There’s a good sense of community. Being in Manchester, and especially at night, you do experience things so it is very good to bring attention to it.”

If you are in need of support, the University of Manchester provide a Report & Support system which allows you to report incidents anonymously or speak to an advisor.

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