Taking to the streets for women’s rights
Kitchener-Waterloo’s 28th annual Take Back the Night (TBTN) walk charged through Waterloo Public Square, up King Street and detoured to Victoria Park up to City Hall this past Saturday to address the rights of women to be safe, without violence, regardless of age, creed, location, numbers or attire.
“We were really pleased this year with the turnout and the participation actually,” said Sarah Castleman, public relations and operations manager of the Sexual Support Center of Waterloo Region.
“We had about 300 strong marching and I think a big part of those numbers was the fact that we had a variety of different groups there.”
Present at Saturday’s event were the Tri-City Roller Girls — leading the march on their rollerblades — Aboriginal women’s drumming groups and a variety of singers scheduled at city hall after the march itself. “It’s certainly the biggest crowd we’ve had out in the past few years,” Castelman said.
The history of Take Back the Night starts in the 1970s in England, when there were a series of violent sexual assaults on women. Measures were taken to protect women, one of which was to place a 10:00 p.m. curfew in which women could not be outside of their homes without a male escort.
“As a result,” Castleman said, “women were outraged. So they took a stance, marched together, reclaiming their right to their freedom of movement and mobility without the protection of men.”
Women at that time in communities all across the world were having similar experiences with their mobility being restricted, or even their lives were being restricted.
“We still do it today,” Castleman explained. “We tell women; make sure you use the buddy system, make sure you don’t wear anything too provocative, make sure you don’t drink to intoxication, or things like that. We still limit women’s freedoms so that they avoid their own sexual victimization.”
Marches were born out of the ‘70s and ‘80s and TBTN is a global event happening in communities all across the world.
“The march is symbolic,” said Castleman. “It’s about women being able to be safe in their communities, in their homes. It’s about women’s right to have freedoms and mobility without needing the protection of men. And that’s where TBTN came from and that’s why it’s for women — but there are so many great ways for men to get involved.”
Men were invited out to the opening rally as well as to Kitchener City Hall at the end of the march for refreshments.
As well, there were teach-ins this year, where different topics were discussed with topics raging from violence against aboriginal women to how men can be in a gendered analysis of sexual violence.
Men are welcomed to come along and participate in those things and cheer along the route, however the march itself is for women, transgendered individuals and children.
“In Waterloo Region last year,” Castleman said, “there were 373 sexual assaults reported to police. We know from Stats Canada that less than 10 per cent of all sexual assaults are actually reported, so from that data and police stats you can get a sense of the sexual violence that exists in our community.”
Castleman aimed to capture the essence of the TBTN event with an explanation of its importance and meaning to the community.
“It’s an opportunity to publically celebrate women’s solidarity, saying that women aren’t going to be passive and accept the violence against them in the community, but will take action together for change.”