Chloe Ferguson joined marchers on Saturday 25 November for the Reclaim the Night rally, a powerful demonstration against intimidation, discrimination, and violence against women and girls in Northern Ireland.
The rally took place on the International Day to End Violence Against Women and Girls and marked the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, a global campaign to raise awareness and prevent violence against women.
In her speech, Chloe stressed the importance of removing shame from victims and ensuring proper resources for those affected by gender-based violence — especially in terms of nightlife resources. She called for an early intervention strategy, advocating for comprehensive relationship and sex education to empower individuals and prevent violence from occurring in the first place.
Speaking on the need for an urgent return of the Northern Ireland Executive to address the emergency, NUS-USI President Chloe Ferguson said, "We must all stand together, creating a society where everyone feels safe, respected and valued. The Reclaim the Night rally is a testament to our collective commitment to ending gender based violence and building an education system which allows young people to identify different types of harms and where to get support. We need an Executive back up and running urgently to address this emergency, and act on the EVAWG Strategy."
Photography: Press Eye.
The Reclaim the Night rally this year comes as incidents of domestic abuse have been on the increase in Northern Ireland. Reclaim the Night co-organiser Danielle Roberts spoke of how gender-based violence and abuse is a systemic issue that needs addressed in Northern Ireland.
“The number of domestic abuse incidents reported in the past ten years has increased by over 20%, while the number of domestic abuse femicides has also increased, from five in 2013 to nine in 2022,” she said.
Roberts said that four years after the Gillen Review into serious sexual offences in Northern Ireland, many of the recommendations have not been implemented.
“Even with positive developments including the introduction of new offences such as coercive control, stalking and non-fatal strangulation on the statute books the struggle for justice is not over.
"The current political stalemate means the draft Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy is on hold, and Women’s Aid Federation NI have lost 50% of their funding due to no one being in place to make decisions on budgets. We desperately need our politicians to return to Stormont to tackle this crisis and put resourced responses in place not just change on paper,” she added.
Photography: Press Eye.
Have Your Say
If you have been affected by any of these issues, you are not alone. There are many support services available to help you, including:
- The 24-hour Domestic and Sexual Violence Helpline: 0808 802 1414
- Women's Aid Federation Northern Ireland: https://www.womensaidni.org/
- Relate NI: https://www.relateni.org/
- The Men's Advisory Project (MAP): https://mapni.co.uk/
You can also share your stories and experiences on the What Students Think mini-site. Your responses will be used by NUS-USI in forming a Student Manifesto, which will be used to campaign for change in next year's General Election. All responses will be handled anonymously and with confidentiality.