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Chelmsford businesses sign up to Women’s Safety Charter

Womens Safety Poster

It’s International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate women’s achievements, raise awareness about discrimination and take action to drive gender parity.

On all three counts, it feels like a great opportunity to update you on the progress of Chelmsford’s Women’s Safety Charter, three months on from its launch

The charter aims to embed a cultural change in Chelmsford that provides strong and consistent support to women and girls. By signing up to the charter, businesses pledge to contribute to this change by delivering ‘Safe Spaces’ around the city, where staff members are trained to provide a consistent safe environment for all.  

Twenty-eight local businesses and organisations have signed up so far. Representatives from fourteen of these have already had safety charter training, with the remaining set to receive training over the coming weeks (you can find a list of businesses who have completed the training.) 

A women’s safety charter for all businesses

The training helps businesses to take steps to ensure their spaces are safe, respectful and inclusive places for women – whatever services they provide. So far, attendees have included banks, gyms, estate agents, pubs and nightclubs.

"We’re thrilled to see such a range of businesses pledging to prioritise women’s safety. One of the most important things to us when creating the charter was to ensure that it was relevant to all spaces used by women, from nightclubs to car parks, and the mix of businesses joining shows that we achieved this.

Now we just need more. We want to see every business in the district signing up – and that’s no exaggeration! For women to truly feel safe in our city at any time of night or day we all need to play our part."

Sara Tupper, Chelmsford BID Manager

The work has only just begun 

Although Chelmsford’s new Women’s Safety Charter is off to a good start, creating long-term cultural change takes time. The project, made possible through a Chelmsford City Council/Essex PFCC bid for Home Office Safer Streets funding, will continue to run for another two years thanks to money from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. This new grant will ensure that training and support is available until the end of 2025, keeping the momentum going. 

Gender equality consultant Karen Whybro, one of the architects of the charter, is delivering the training, which she has designed specifically for local businesses. She says attendees have been highly engaged with the sessions so far. 

"We’ve had a really positive response to these tailored training sessions and the reactions of attendees have been enlightening. Some participants are surprised to hear the ways women constantly change their behaviour according to how safe they feel; others are well aware of the problem. Importantly, most are ready to hear how they can help.

I’m keen to see attendees now put what they have learnt in training sessions into practice and it’s great to have funding in place to support many more over the next couple of years. Getting new businesses on board and auditing those who are a part of the charter is vital to ensure the safer culture we’re asking for."

Karen Whybro, Gender Equality Consultant

Listening to real experiences

Both the training and charter itself will continue to develop over time as the conversation around women’s safety in our city grows.  

The council’s Community Safety team has asked residents to share their experiences and recently held their first focus group, inviting women to share and discuss ideas for change. Learnings from such focus groups will steer the charter’s development and further inform future training.  

Councillor Rose Moore, Chelmsford City Council’s Cabinet Member for Greener and Safer Chelmsford, says listening to real experiences is key to implementing effective change. 

What repeatedly came up in discussions was the impact of not just the incidents women had been subjected to, but the reactions of those who should have helped. This is where the safety charter can make the biggest difference.

“Often, the first reaction is to remove women from spaces where they are safe and most likely to get the assistance they need. For example, if a woman is thought to be drunk, rather than identified as vulnerable, she is simply ejected from a bar or club without her friends and with no way of getting home.

This response is what we want to change and the cycle we hope the charter can break. By recognising unsafe situations and vulnerable people, and ensuring a consistency in response to both, we can really work to improve women’s safety in our city."

Cllr Rose Moore

The ‘Women’s Safety in our City’ campaign asks men to view their actions from a woman’s perspective.

Embracing the charter and embracing change 

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is ‘Embrace Equity’. We invite both the businesses and residents of Chelmsford to answer that call and do their part to drive cultural change. 

For those who’d like to contribute to the conversation, we will be holding more focus groups in the near future – please keep an eye on our Women’s Safety Charter page and our social media for details. You can also participate in Essex County Council’s upcoming event at Chelmsford Central Baptist Church on 11 and 13 March. 

For businesses interested in signing up to the charter, please contact Chelmsford For You to register your interest and find out more. 

And if you’re wondering, you can find a list of businesses you frequent  that are part of the WSC.

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Molly Smith
Molly Smith

Molly writes stories about public health, community safety, leisure, community sport, parking and Chelmsford Market.