Once again, we have been struck by complete horror and sadness on hearing of the tragic murder of Sabina Nessa, who was taking what was due to be a five-minute walk through a park to meet a friend. She never finished that walk and our hearts go out to her family, friends and loved ones.
As a primary school teacher, Sabina’s story has especially touched hearts here at the GDST and comes just six months after the tragic murder of Sarah Everard. Tonight, 24th September, there will be a vigil remembering Sabina. It will be a moment to celebrate her life, but also to stand in solidarity against violence against women.
Earlier this year we witnessed an outpouring from women of the appalling stories of harassment and coercion they have faced and continue to face.
I said it sixth months ago and I want to say it loudly again: women need to feel safe. Women deserve to feel safe. We must take action now to end violence against women and ensure that no women must feel afraid or face danger, as they walk the streets or in any walk of life.
At the GDST, we continue to work tirelessly with girls in our schools to help ensure they have a safe space to discuss these issues. We talk regularly with our students: about consent and coercion; about setting and respecting boundaries; about having the confidence to stand up for yourself and your friends; and about calling out harassment wherever you see it – even if the person doing the harassing is someone you know and like.
We also teach girls that abuse is abuse and should never be tolerated or passed off as “just having a laugh”. We need to respect boundaries and each other.
But it is not just for women to set their own boundaries and to make a stand. Society needs to change and take responsibility and we need men to be aware and be allies. And there are so many people stepping up and speaking out. Conversations and taking action may be uncomfortable, but this is where we can make change happen. At the GDST we will not give up.
Tonight, I will be lighting a candle for Sabina to celebrate her life and to stand in solidarity with women, as well as for hope and determination for the future.