Women’s safety remains a priority for the Capital - Mandy Watt

City of Edinburgh Council depute leader Mandy WattCity of Edinburgh Council depute leader Mandy Watt
City of Edinburgh Council depute leader Mandy Watt
This Friday (March 8) marks International Women’s Day which has been officially recognised by the United Nations since 1977.

This day is an opportunity for us to all celebrate women and their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. From seminars to walking tours, community swims and much more there are lots of event taking place around the city to mark the day.

A key part of this is to make sure women and girls feel safe in our city, which is why we’re launching the second phase our #RespectHerSpace campaign.

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First launched last November, the campaign encouraged men to make small changes to their behaviour to make people, especially women and girls, feel safer in Edinburgh. The campaign was produced by the council in conjunction with partners, including Police Scotland, NHS Lothian, the University of Edinburgh, and Edinburgh Napier University. It was also supported by the Women’s Safety in Public Places Community Improvement Partnership and the Equally Safe Edinburgh Committee.

This new phase will take the form of posters in male toilets in pubs, bars, and clubs in the city centre alongside targeted social media. Network Rail and Lothian Buses will also endorse the campaign, displaying messages on digital screens at their travel hubs and Edinburgh Trams sharing these on their social media channels.

The campaign follows on from two Women’s Safety in Public Places consultations held between June 2022 and March 2023. The analysis of consultation responses found between 73.9 and 80.5 per cent of women reported having experienced harassment, abuse, or violence while in a public space in Edinburgh. Wider evidence suggests that women and girls experience disproportionate levels of harassment in public places compared with men. This restricts their ability to freely participate in school, work, and public life due to concerns for personal safety, directly impacting their health and wellbeing.

The dedicated #RespectHerSpace campaign webpages provide information on how women feel in public spaces in Edinburgh, as well as advice and suggestions on the small steps that men can take to promote women’s and girls’ safety and to prevent harassment, especially sexual harassment, and abuse in public spaces.

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Small changes, such as crossing the road instead of walking directly behind someone or making a phone call, are intended to reassure women and girls who may otherwise feel unsafe while in a public place.

It’s really important that we have these conversations with our male friends, relatives and colleagues so that we make our city as safe, secure and inclusive as possible. Women and girls are often excluded from full and meaningful inclusion in public spaces due to worries about their safety, but men have a fundamental role to play in changing this.

This campaign comes alongside the wider work that we’re doing to make our city safer for our residents and visitors, from investing £500,000 this financial year into lighting up our parks to pioneering smart security in our cutting-edge City Operations Centre. I’d encourage everyone to keep an eye out for this campaign and reflect on how our individual behaviour can help improve everyone’s everyday experience in Edinburgh.

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