Hollaback girls to reclaim Sheffield streets

Hollaback! anti-harassment street walk in Sheffield on Thursday Evening''11 April  2013'Image � Paul David Drabble
Hollaback! anti-harassment street walk in Sheffield on Thursday Evening''11 April 2013'Image � Paul David Drabble
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Anti-harassment campaigners wrote messages in chalk on city pavements in an attempt to ‘reclaim the streets’ of Sheffield from abusers.

The Hollaback group, made up of women harassed or abused on the streets of Sheffield, met at Devonshire Green and walked through the city, etching wash-away slogans and messages on the ground.

Kate one of the organisers of the  Hollaback! anti-harassment street walk in Sheffield on Thursday Evening''11 April  2013'Image � Paul David Drabble

Kate one of the organisers of the Hollaback! anti-harassment street walk in Sheffield on Thursday Evening''11 April 2013'Image � Paul David Drabble

Kate Blamire, who set up the Hollaback Sheffield movement last September, said the ‘chalk walk’ was an empowering event for women who had suffered street harassment.

“It’s about getting the message out there that street harassment is not acceptable,” said Kate, aged 23.

“It’s a huge problem all across the world, but talking about the topic is empowering and makes you feel like you’re doing something about it.”

The first Hollaback movement was set up in New York in 2005, and has grown quickly thanks to the internet.

There are now almost 60 different groups across the world, with studies revealing between 80 and 90 per cent of women have been harassed in public.

Kate, a former Sheffield University student who now lives in Sharrow, stumbled across Hollaback after suffering street harassment herself when she was 20.

“I was on my bike when someone shouted sexual abuse at me,” she said.

“I didn’t know the term street harassment then, but I found Hollaback after looking on the internet for ways to combat abuse like that.”

After seeing a Hollaback Birmingham meeting, Kate and her friends created the Sheffield group.

Victims are encouraged to blog about their own experiences of street harassment which, as well as providing some comfort, puts the issue firmly in the spotlight.

“It’s about breaking the silence,” said Kate. “Raising awareness is the first step, then it gives people confidence to shout back if they want to and not let it get to them. It’s a big social problem.”

Yesterday’s chalk walk marked the end of a week of activities, including workshops and film screenings, for anti-harassment week.

Maria Cansella, 23, suffered street harassment on her way to the walk.

“Someone shouted, ‘Alright sexy’, at me even on my way here,” she said. “It’s important we make it clear it’s not acceptable. If you allow harassment like that it becomes a gateway to touching, groping and then sexual assault.”

Student Mizla Manandhar, 21, who also joined the chalk walk, said: “I’ve never been the victim of street harassment, but that doesn’t mean I’m not upset by it.

“I wouldn’t wish it to happen to me or my friends.”

Visit www.sheffield.ihollaback.org for more information.