On the annual celebration of International Women’s Day, the world recognised the cultural, political and socio-economic accomplishments of women around the world.
Two days later, an outcry from women began to trend on social media following the kidnapping and murder of Sarah Everard in Clapham, South London.
Women came together to express their anger at the dangers they continuously face whilst walking alone, both during the day and at night. Precautions taken by Sarah Everard, such as wearing sensible shoes, walking along well-lit streets and making a phone call to a friend or family member, are actions taken every day by women in the hope to avoid danger in the streets.
Social media posts were shared by thousands of women to raise awareness of the issue of sexual harassment in public places and the heightened fear for the safety of women, not only in the United Kingdom but also throughout the world.
According to a survey from UN Women UK, 97% of women aged 18-24 have been sexually harassed, while 80% of women of all ages have experienced sexual harassment in a public place.
Protecting oneself on unsafe streets is a challenge-faced every day for homeless women in Ireland. The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage published that 2,037 women sought emergency accommodation in Ireland, in their latest monthly report.
Women account for 41% of homeless adults in Ireland, significantly higher than the European average of 20% – 33%.
The lockdown restrictions have ordered citizens to stay at home, for these women, this is not an option. Increased levels of domestic violence, as well as loss of income, are just two circumstances that have forced women to permanently leave their homes.
The research, undertaken by Focus Ireland, highlights that many homeless women are also responsible for children, with 86% of single-parent families being that of lone women. This causes a misrepresentation of how many women are currently facing homelessness.
The Mercy Law Resource Centre (MLRC) published a report in 2019, detailing several cases of new mothers, and their new-borns, being sent to one night only emergency accommodation. This type of accommodation gives access to the room no earlier than 8 pm and demands the occupant to leave by 9.30 am in the morning.
In many cases, new mothers have roamed the streets just days after giving birth with no knowledge if they will receive support and accommodation that evening.
Through successful lobbying by MLRC, one-night accommodation now ceases to exist. Whilst this has bought many positives, the lack of suitable long term accommodation still leaves many women and families facing homelessness, with a significant number sleeping on the streets or sofa-surfing from home to home.
Whilst International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate and recognise the growing success for women’s rights that are free of stereotypes, stigma and violence. It is important to remember that many homeless women show resilience and strength every day in emergency accommodation.
Sarah Everard’s story has highlighted the importance of safer streets for women around the world.
It is important to recognise that all women, from all backgrounds and of all ages, deserve to feel safe on the streets. They also deserve not to live on them.