Take Back The Night is an annual event that brought out 400 people to march through downtown Winnipeg to raise awareness about violence against women while trying to reclaim the streets.
The event that started in the ‘70s was originally a women-only march, as the event was about showing that women do not need a man to feel safe while walking at night.
The University of Manitoba and the University of Winnipeg Womyn’s centre along with other community groups from the Winnipeg Inner-city set up the event at the Valour Community Centre, Orioles Site and marched through Winnipeg’s West End.
Some feel that the march itself is somewhat of a healing process, while others feel it’s a message that women are not afraid, said a supporter who had been sexually abused.
“Take Back the Night focuses more on issues of sexual violence and violence against women. Tonight we focused on missing and murdered aboriginal women, domestic violence and violence against sex workers,” said Julia Negrea, one of the coordinators and spokesperson for Take Back the Night.
Negrea said that the numbers for this year have been very comparable to other years the event has taken place and that Facebook.com was a contributing factor to the number, as the group had over 400 confirmed guests on Facebook.
She continued, saying that the groups who are involved have outreach available for women every day and it’s something that is available for those who seek it.
“It’s so empowering to come out and have 400 people, men, women and children. [ . . . ] It’s so nice to be out at night and feel totally safe,” said Negrea. “For women who may normally be marginalized to have 400 people come out and say ‘you matter,’ I think is really important.”
Negrea also said that this event is also making it clear to women who are working the streets that there is help available.
“[It shows] there are people who want to help, they are not being judged and that their lives are worth while,” she continued.
Counselors were on site and pamphlets on sensitive subjects like rape and domestic violence were available as resources at the march, provided for people who needed more information on where to find help and where to turn if they have been a victim of abuse.
“Knowing that help is out there is half the battle,” said Kaia Kater, a participant in the march. “I think that the easier it is and the more accessible, the more people will come and the more people will fight.”
Other members of the march explained that the event is empowering, as the streets should be safe for women. The march raises awareness that there are people who will fight for the right to walk at night.
“We work a lot with sex-trade workers and they’re the most marginalized population,” said Kathleen Shellrude, community development facilitator at the Mount Carmel Clinic, a non-profit community health centre whose purpose is to create and promote healthy inner city communities.
“It certainly empowers the women that are marching here today and it shows women that there is a great community of women who care about them and that they are embraced at least by part of society,” she continued.
Cities across the country, like Calgary and Vancouver have also participated in the event and Negrea indicated that while the event needs to maintain its feminist roots, they are trying to make it as mainstream as possible.