It's on men: Change now so all women can be safe

Devon Osborne, Islington Green Party, writes:

I happened to be at Highbury Fields taking my daily exercise when the vigil was supposed to be held on Saturday, March 13 in memory of Sarah Everard.

My female friend, with whom I take my exercise, started to get noticeably anxious as the sun set and darkness surrounded us.

We had several discussions about how we had felt this last week – her having a series of panic attacks, I had spent three days filled with a crippling sense of fear.

We had taken Sarah’s disappearance and the developments throughout the week so personally that we had dredged up every remembrance of sexual assault, harassment or fear of them happening and re-lived it with the dread that it could have easily been us.

The reaction on social media and in Clapham Common on Saturday night told us that we were not alone. But not only this, we had felt a numbing sensation, the emotionally raw and exhausted feeling of knowing that for years we have had to be alert to every man around us as a potential threat.

I’m not sorry for how uncomfortable a man might feel to see me cross the road to avoid walking past him, when I have feared for my safety as a man crossed a busy section of Holloway Road, yelling harassment at me, just to grope me and ask me why I’m not up for it.

Every woman I know has stories like this, and we must recognise and remember that women of colour and trans women face violence at much higher rates than white women – the similarity between us all being that it’s chronically unreported to the police because we know it won’t be taken seriously or feel there’s not much they can do.

If you felt personally victimised by Jenny Jones’ suggestion that men be held to a curfew of 6pm, or fell behind the idea that she, an unelected member of the House of Lords, had no right to suggest such an obvious infringement of mens’ freedoms, think of how many ways women are expected to modify their daily actions to protect themselves from harm.

If you felt like screaming “not all men”, please know we are aware, but the constant fear of not knowing exactly which men exhausts our minds and bodies at every possible turn, for every space we have to or want to occupy.

And after all the extensive effort we go to, that Sarah went to, to have it reinforced that it still isn’t enough fills you with an overwhelming sense of despair.

There has to be a shift. Having been sexually assaulted on Holloway Road on more than one occasion, I have taken to loudly exclaiming “you are making me feel uncomfortable” just to get men that make unsolicited comments to me to feel uncomfortable themselves.

This is often met with “don’t be like that” or “I haven’t done anything” – wrong, you’ve made me feel so afraid, I’ve had to shout into the street for help.

It has been encouraging to see some men seeking ways to help this week and the narrative needs to change – this is a man’s problem, men need to take ownership of the effects of their actions.

It is the difficult conversations, to check your friends’ inappropriate jokes, to keep your distance from women you see walking alone, actually believing the women around you when they say they have been or are made to feel uncomfortable and not using any language that blames them for feeling so.

It’s an opportunity for you to put a woman’s right to feel safe above your own agendas, for you to protect women from the harm of a cultivated narrative that our actions are the root cause of the violence against us.

You’ve got to check your egos at the door for this conversation to take place and for women to feel safe.

Islington Gazette: Valuable information is collected by the censusValuable information is collected by the census (Image: National Census Office)

Upcoming census

Satnam Gill, executive member for finance and performance, Islington Council, writes:

Most of us have now had a purple Census 2021 letter through the post, ahead of census day 2021 on Sunday. I urge anyone who hasn’t yet completed their census to please do so.

The information gathered from the census has a big impact on planning and funding vital services for our community – GP surgeries, hospitals, schools, libraries, transport, roads and more.

A lot of funding from central government is allocated based on information gained from the census. The census helps us to identify where vital services including social care, police and fire services are needed the most.

By filling in and returning your questionnaire, you can help to play an important role in making sure that we are all included. As we look to rebuild our local economy and community after the devastating effects of Covid-19, it is essential that we have all the services, and funding, we need.

It really matters to all of us, now more than ever, that we take part in the census.
All of the information collected is completely anonymous and not shared with anyone, not even government departments, so you can be assured of confidentiality.

So if you haven’t yet filled in your questionnaire, please do. It is really easy to do and can be done in a few minutes.

If you need any help or advice with completing the survey, call the census contact centre on 0800 141 2021 or visit

The new normal

Sebastian Sandys, Bunhill XR, writes:

Whilst I agree wholeheartedly with Cllr Sue Lukes’ encouraging everyone to have the Covid-19 vaccination, her comment that “the more people take up the vaccine, the sooner we will see life becoming normal again” is very wide of the mark.

Having had my vaccination last week, I am keenly looking forward to life in a world that is very different to the one we left behind almost a year ago.

Call to reconsider

Richard Smith, Highbury Hill, Islington, writes:

Low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) are undoubtedly making streets more friendly for people who are able to walk, cycle and enjoy the absence of traffic.

But behind the laudable aspirations of cleaner air, and statistics can be manipulated to prove almost anything, there are people whose first-hand experiences are quite different – for whom the streets are no longer friendly.

These are people behind the steering wheels and people who depend on motor vehicles. It is not mere inconvenience and liberation for them, as supporters of the present LTNs purport. Instead, there is a growing number of personal stories of hardship and uncertain futures.

Specific individual cases are being documented – like a disabled lady trapped in her home because a five-minute journey of a carer has become 45 and can no longer be fitted in.

Or of a less-mobile person, dependent on taxis, having to face significant additional costs of the now extended journeys. There are many more.

Then there are local businesses, struggling to continue local deliveries – vital to many less mobile people – because they have neither time nor resources to make the extra journeys now required of them.

In fact, many traders in Highbury West are faced with making redundancies and possible closure.

None of these people’s vehicles can be considered to be through-traffic or accused of making short cuts – the elimination of which the council says is the reason for the schemes.

These people are part of the community and need access to and from their homes, businesses and customers in a way that is direct and efficient.

As for the traffic displaced onto council-mandated extended journeys, this is adding to the already heavily congested main roads, making life for those living, working and walking on them anything but people friendly.

The denial of direct access is, at best, an abject failure to recognise the full impact of the so-called People Friendly Streets/LTN schemes.

They must be reconsidered before it’s too late.