MEMBERS of Bolton University took to the streets of the town last night as part of the Reclaim The Streets Movement which highlights women’s rights against sexual harassment and rights to safety.

As part of yesterday’s Human Rights Day, Bolton University’s Feminist Society and community action group Yes Matters, organised a march around Bolton to round off a series of events which had been arranged as part of the international campaign, 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence.

The annual campaign raises awareness of the human rights issue following statistics which show 25% of women being affected by domestic violence during their adult lifetimes.

Founder of YES Matters, Gemma Aitchison, believed the university needed a change due to the lack of awareness to the issue around Bolton. Taking inspiration from Manchester’s ‘Reclaim The Streets’ campaign, Aitchison decided to bring the march to the town to highlight the importance of feeling safe when walking in public:

“We shouldn’t have to limit our lives because we don’t feel safe outside, we’ve got every right to walk down the street and feel safe, just like men. You see men walking down the street topless in the summer and not having any worries so why is it different for women being judged for the skirt they wear.”

Following the success of a previous march they organised surrounding domestic violence, Gemma decided to make the protest specifically on Human Rights Day:

“It’s the last day of the 16 days today and we’re hoping to do this every year. It is only our second year doing this but we just hope that it will grow and we’ll keep trying to raise awareness, despite who’s in government.”

Aitchison stressed the importance of how people are naturally introduced into these gender roles and the effects it has on young people’s constructions of reality,

“We’re engraved into the gender roles at a very early age in terms of being addressed as ‘pretty little girl’ or ‘big strong boy’. Girls are taught that the most important thing about them is how they look and that their self-worth comes from being pretty. It’s everywhere!”

The protest comes aside of young activists, Girls Against, who recently spoke about their previous experiences as groping victims and campaigned for women’s rights to reduce the amount of unwanted advances at gigs. The girls have since received support from rock bands Peace and Slaves who have voiced their disgust to the issue and have vowed to end a gig if they witness further groping at their music performances.

By Emily Fuller

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