Women’s groups and individuals from the borough of Waltham Forest came together over the past two years to form a network aim to highlight rising violence against women and girls during the pandemic. United by our belief in an inclusive and intersectional feminism, we highlighted violence against women that was motivated not only by misogyny, but racism, transphobia, homophobia and disablism.
The murder of Sarah Everard in March 2020 led to organised memorial vigils held at different places throughout the borough. The violent attack by police on the Memorial Vigil in Clapham Common under the guise of Covid lockdown rules raised the spectre of state institutionalised misogyny especially against racialised women. The impact of racialised misogyny was evident in the manner in which the murders of Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman were dealt with by the police.
The extension of police powers under the Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill introduced by the Home Officer further raised concerns amongst women’s organisations. A series of protests highlighting both rising violence against women and girls and the dangers of the further empowerment of police were held throughout the borough.
During the 16 days of Action against Gender Violence in 2021 (25 November to 10 December), an online meeting was held to highlight rising violence against women and girls. That decided to organise a Reclaim the Night March and Rally on the 29 January. Beginning in both Leyton and Walthamstow, the 2 marches came together at Walthamstow Town Square for a rally.
The Reclaim the Night Marches were co-organised by the Waltham Forest Women’s Network, WF Women Taking Back the Streets, Leyton and Wanstead LP Women’s Branch, East London Unite Community, and WF Women’s Faith Forum. The marches stopped at various hot-spots where women had faced violence along the routes which allowed for speeches to be given. The marches were accompanied by the XR drummers and the Samba Sisters and singing and chanting. Speakers during the marches included Carole Vincent (L&W Women’s Branch & East London Unite Community), Sabah Tally, Wilma (Momentum & WF Anti-Raids Network), and a speaker from the RMT trade union)
Emcees at the rally in Walthamstow Town Square were Arifa Enaudi and Jane Connor. Speakers included Farah Ahmed (WF Women’s Network), Ariane (Winvisible), Bhavanee (Waltham Forest Women’s Faith Forum), Councillor Elizabeth Baptiste (Mayor of Waltham Forest), Susan Pashkoff (L&W Women’s Branch & East London Unite Community), Councillor Grace Williams (Leader of Waltham Forest Council). Poetry was read by Andreena Leeanne