Keeping women and girls safe was already a priority in our plans for the borough long before our new campaign’s inception. But it is an issue that successive generations and governments have failed to crack; perhaps because the focus has forever been on the victims of sexism, harassment and violence, and not on the perpetrators.
It should never have taken years of unacceptable male behaviour to inspire the Me Too campaign, nor the horrendous murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer for enough to be enough.
Our women’s safety survey, conducted in the summer of last year in order to research local opinion following the murder of Sarah Everard, showed that just over half (52%) of those who responded felt ‘unsafe’ and, even more worrying, 92% cited their gender as a reason to feel unsafe. Despite pulling out the stops in service provision to tackle all forms of gender-based violence, with a five-year programme to tackle domestic abuse, which extended into a more holistic piece in our violence against women and girls strategy, the problem still clearly remains.
But in the aftermath of a global pandemic where young people have suffered the confinement of lockdowns, had their wings clipped and life paths interrupted perhaps more than other generations, we reached the need for this campaign not with criticism in mind, but with confidence and trust in the next generation. I believe that younger men and boys have shown such resilience and compassion that they can empathise and own this issue in a way their predecessors did not.
When we target men, they can greater understand how to be male allies to women.
Our campaign ‘See it through her eyes’ is designed to hit the problem head-on. To stop men and boys in their tracks and inspire behavioural change.
Sexual harassment includes cat-calling, staring, and unwanted touching. Our campaign confronts men and boys with these seemingly small acts through a girl’s eyes.
‘Everyday’ sexist behaviour sits on a sliding scale of harm where, if not called out, can escalate into violence against women and girls. This abuse is often seen as an inevitable part of normal life because of deeply rooted misogynistic attitudes towards women and girls. The campaign inspires men and boys to make it right by challenging their own attitudes and behaviour, and that of others.
We partnered with agency Nice and Serious to deliver the new campaign aimed at men and boys aged 16 to 25 years old. This is a key window for change in young people’s risk-taking behaviours as they grow and develop.
The campaign video will be rolled out on social media and in local schools and youth groups to facilitate discussion about sexual harassment and gender equality. Alongside the video we will be running a poster Adshel campaign at bus stops and other hotspots. We've created the whole campaign on a tight budget of £30,000 thanks to Safer Streets funding from the Home Office.
Young people from our borough worked closely with us to develop the campaign, including Southwark Youth Parliament and Southwark Young Advisors. We ran focus groups throughout the process where young people steered the campaign – both the creative direction and content.
The result speaks for itself. I am immensely proud of the young people who played their part in the creative process, and our expert team of communications professionals who made it happen. It is sobering, and I hope that it does its job.
The responsibility to end harassment and make our streets a better place for women and girls weighs heavily on men’s shoulders – it is our problem and our task as we bring up the next generation to make it stop. This film has resonated with so many women for whom Tyrelle’s journey to school is all too familiar. Now we hope boys and men too, will see it, and stop it.
Kieron Williams is leader of Southwark LBC