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Men and boys at centre of Southwark’s new campaign on women’s safety

29 November 2022

On this year’s White Ribbon Day (25 November), Southwark Council unveiled a new campaign tackling misogyny in the borough.

In Southwark – and across the rest of the country – women and girls face sexual harassment from men and boys on a daily basis.

62 per cent of women and girls in Southwark have been sexually harassed in public.

71 per cent of women of all ages in the UK have experienced some form of sexual harassment in a public space. This number rises to 86% among 18-24-year-olds.

Sexual harassment includes cat-calling, staring, and unwanted touching. The campaign confronts men and boys with these seemingly small acts through a girl’s eyes.

‘Everyday’ sexist behaviour sits on a sliding scale of harm where, if not called out, can escalate into violence against women and girls. This abuse is often seen as an inevitable part of normal life because of deeply rooted misogynistic attitudes towards women and girls. The campaign inspires men and boys to make it right by challenging their own attitudes and behaviour, and that of others.

Southwark partnered with agency Nice and Serious to deliver the new campaign aimed at men and boys aged 16 to 25 years old. This is a key window for change in young people’s risk-taking behaviours as they grow and develop. The campaign video will be rolled out in local schools and youth groups to facilitate discussion about sexual harassment and gender equality.

Young people from Southwark worked closely with the council to develop the campaign, including Southwark Youth Parliament and Southwark Young Advisors. The council ran focus groups throughout the process where young people steered the campaign – both the creative direction and content.

The council’s website offers advice and support to help men and boys take responsibility for the pervasive gender-based harm that continues today. Between 2009 and 2018, a man killed a woman every three days. In 2021, at least 144 women were killed by men – an increase on the previous two years.

Cllr Kieron Williams, Leader of Southwark Council, said: “The sad truth is every day women and girls across our community are faced with a barrage of sexist and abusive acts by men. All too often it is passed off as harmless comments or attention, but the reality for women and girls is very different as this campaign shows.

“This misogyny is a toxic inheritance that has been handed down by men to boys for generations.  We will only break that chain if men take responsibility. It starts with us and it ends with us. That means changing the way we bring up our boys and calling each other out whenever we see sexist, leering or abusive behaviour.

“Through this campaign, boys and men will see sexual harassment through a girl’s eyes, and just how harmful and unacceptable it is. Because if you can see it, you can stop it.”

Cllr Dora Dixon-Fyle MBE, Cabinet Member for Community Safety, said: “For too long, women and girls have been told to keep themselves safe with men and boys remaining largely absent from conversations around gender-based violence. But not in Southwark. Our new campaign asks men and boys to take an active role in making the borough’s streets safer for women and girls.”

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, said: “We all need to work together as a society to tackle the epidemic of violence against women and girls. This excellent campaign by Southwark Council will help to get the message across to men and boys that words matter and there is a link between misogyny and violence.

“I am determined to do more to prevent violence against women and girls, which is why I launched our successful Have A Word campaign and a training package available to every secondary school to teach our next generation of Londoners about becoming allies and help build a safer city for everyone.”

Harriet Harman, MP for Camberwell and Peckham, said: “I fully support Southwark Council’s new campaign focusing on men and boys in the quest to end male violence against women and girls. There continues to be an epidemic of male violence against women and girls. Everyday women and girls are killed, injured or sexually harassed by men. Men have got an important role to play in stopping male violence, by continuously re-examining their own attitudes, by stepping in when they see other men threatening women and girls, and by male perpetrators taking responsibility for their own actions.”

Serafima Serafimova, Film Director at Nice and Serious, said: “Rather than focusing on those who experience it, we wanted the campaign video to remind boys and men of their responsibility to call out unacceptable behaviour and ultimately stop male violence against women and girls. We felt that the best way to do this was to swap gender roles and portray to boys and men what it actually feels like to be objectified and sexually harassed.

“We developed a narrative that follows a teenage boy who is forced to navigate through the unwanted attention and sexual harassment from women and girls on his way to school. When writing the script, we collaborated with female talent from local universities to adapt language and nuances that would cut through to the target audience.”

The campaign has been supported by the Home Office’s Safer Streets Fund.


Page last updated: 29 November 2022

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