Making women and girls feel safe

Growing up and living in vibrant London, being vigilant when navigating the night-time as a woman comes as a given.

Since my youth, I have worked in hospitality, so I am used to late nights and solitary journeys through dimly lit streets in south London. 

While I have always felt safe, I have always operated with caution. 

The routine of staying alert, texting your mates when you get in and carrying your keys in your hand is something I will never grow out of. 

My perspective is rooted in the female experience; however, through this piece of work it became apparent that this experience is shared among members of the LGBTQIA+ community. 

The fear of being attacked at night and no-one being around.

The heartbreaking losses of Sabina Nessa, and sisters Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry, shook every woman everywhere, but it was the tragedy of Sarah Everard’s murder in 2021 that struck a personal chord. 

Why? Because this happened right next to Wandsworth and so close to home.

In 2018, I was honoured to have been selected and elected by neighbours and friends to represent them in local government. 

Despite the challenges of being in opposition for the first few years, instigating initiatives that would make women and girls feel safe remained at the top of my priorities, only preceded by increasing food security.  

In 2022, we managed to take control of the council after 48 years, so I was honoured to be asked to speak at a cross-party event organised by the think-tank Radix about our success. 

It was there that I met Bristol’s night czar, who introduced me to the Women’s Night Safety Charter. 

Immediately, I was determined to see this in Wandsworth. 

I engaged officers on a night safety walk around our borough and asked them to explore adoption of the charter; they suggested the development of a comprehensive night-time strategy focusing on activity between 6pm and 6am.

I gave the officers my confidence and the freedom to try innovative consultation methods, as well as traditional ones.

Views were gathered through interactive art, focus groups with young people, and an online platform called Commonplace, which engaged more than 150 people in a week. 

These insights informed not only our night-time strategy, but also aspects of our violence against women and girls strategy.

In November 2023, we launched the first night-time strategy in London, ‘Night Time, Our Time’, with the London Night Czar, Amy Lamé.  

Subsequently, we have used the annual refresh of our licensing policy to integrate compliance with the Women’s Night Safety Charter into the conditions of our licence agreements.

I am proud of the work we have done to write this strategy and, in the coming months, my team and I will be working across council departments and with fellow cabinet members to implement other aspects of it.

It’s sobering to note that, in 2022/23, 174 women were murdered in the capital. 

These are not just statistics, but our sisters, daughters and mothers – a stark reminder that this work isn’t over.

Night-time safety is everyone’s business and demands our continued attention.

To find out more and to view Wandsworth’s night-time strategy, please visit The Women’s Night Safety Charter is available on the Mayor of London website.

Shisha bars ‘should be licensed’

Lancaster tops by-elections table