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Mayor Andy Burnham launches new campaign to tackle gender-based violence

  • Campaign aimed at men’s and boys’ behaviours to tackle sexual harassment in public spaces
  • New video shows day-to-day sexual harassment faced by women and girls in public spaces
  • First meeting of the Greater Manchester Gender Based Violence Board takes place

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has today (16 December) launched a new campaign aimed at men and boys, challenging their behaviours to tackle sexual harassment of women and girls in public spaces.

As part of the Greater Manchester 10-year Gender-Based Violence Strategy published in September, the Mayor committed personally to lead this campaign which begins with the launch of a new video highlighting the experiences women and girls face going about their daily lives. The video will be taken out into schools, colleges and other community settings in the New Year and will be the first in a range of activities and public engagement about gender-based violence and challenging men’s and boys’ behaviours. The development of the campaign will be informed by the Greater Manchester Gender-Based Violence Board.

The video tells the story of a young woman being sexually harassed on social media, out jogging, coming out of a coffee shop and out at night. Some may perceive this behaviour as everyday harassment, but the video shows the impact it has on those on the receiving end and asks the question ‘Do you think this is OK?’. The hashtag for the campaign for social media is #IsThisOK.

The video aims to get men and boys to recognise these types of behaviours are not ‘OK’: they are unsolicited intrusions which make women feel uneasy, threatened or even vulnerable. GMCA worked with women’s groups and men and boys as part of the development of the video. Every woman will recognise these experiences.

The storyboard is based on experiences of women and girls across the UK. UN Women UK found that:

  • 71% of women of all ages in the UK have experienced some form of sexual harassment in a public space.
  • This number rises to 86% among 18-24-year-olds.
  • Over 95% of all women did not report their experiences of sexual harassment

The Government’s Equalities Unit Sexual Harassment Survey 2020 based on 12,131 responses found that:

  • 43% experienced at least one sexual harassment behaviour in the last 12 months.
  • The three most commonly experienced sexual harassment behaviours were:
    • unwelcome sexual jokes
    • staring or looks
    • sexual comments
  • In terms of where the harassment occurred:
    • 42% on the street or walking around
    • 31% in a club, pub or bar
    • 28% on public transport
  • 54% of people who had experienced sexual harassment in the last year reported that they felt it had very or fairly affected their quality of life.

ONS data from July 2021 found that:

  • Two out of three women aged 16 to 34 years experienced one form of harassment in the previous 12 months
  • 44% of women aged 16 to 34 years having experienced catcalls, whistles, unwanted sexual comments or jokes
  • 29% having felt like they were being followed.

The video intends to spark a conversation across the city-region on men’s and boys’ behaviours and what is considered sexual harassment.

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “This year, we have heard heartfelt calls from women and girls, across all ages and backgrounds, for major change when it comes to ending everyday abuse, intimidation and violence. I am proud that we are now taking serious action in Greater Manchester in response to those calls with this ambitious 10-year strategy against all forms of gender-based violence.

“I recognise my personal responsibility to lead a new conversation about the change we need to see and that is why I am bringing forward this campaign aimed at men and boys. For too long, women and girls have had to put up with behaviours in public spaces that have made them feel uncomfortable, frightened or threatened. Rather than women being forced to change their behaviours to feel safe, it is men and boys who need to take responsibility for this issue, either by reflecting on and changing our own behaviours or challenging those of people we know.

“This new video is intended to get the conversation going and in the New Year we will be taking it into our schools, colleges and communities. We’ve all got mums, grans, sisters and daughters and we need to ask whether we would like them to be subject to some of things we see everyday. If your behaviour is making women feel uncomfortable or unsafe, our message is simple: it’s not OK.”

Today also marks the first meeting of the Greater Manchester Gender-Based Violence Board. The establishment of the Board was one of the recommendations of the Gender Based-Violence Strategy and will be chaired by the Deputy Mayor for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice, Baroness Bev Hughes. The Board will drive the implementation of the Strategy over the next 10 years and its membership include victims and survivors, and organisations that represent them. The Board will eventually be co-chaired by someone with lived experience of gender-based violence along with Bev Hughes.

Over the next 10 years, Greater Manchester will focus on the following commitments:

  • Accountability to victims and survivors, children, and young people.
  • Sustained engagement with the public, employers, and educational institutions.
  • Recognition of the roles played by frontline health, social care and specialist, VCSE and ‘by and for’ service providers in reducing repeat victimisation
  • Openness about the capacity of the criminal justice system to deliver justice to victims and the demands it places on them.
  • An integrated housing policy that ensures most victims can stay in their own homes or are swiftly rehoused locally without compromising their tenancy rights.
  • Safe and effective interventions with perpetrators that prioritise the protection of victims and survivors.

In addition to the first Board meeting and launch of the men’s and boys’ campaign, work is already underway across Greater Manchester to tackle gender-based violence:

  • GMCA and the Deputy Mayor are working with the newly established Sexual Violence Action Network for Students to develop a hard-hitting campaign to challenge behaviours and attitudes and prevent sexual violence and harassment.
  • The Mayor and Night-Time Economy Adviser, Sacha Lord, met with students campaigning against spiking and have set up a Greater Manchester Anti-Spiking Partnership which aims to tackle and deter drinks and drugs spiking in venues/clubs/licensed premises across the city-region and deter perpetrators.
  • A partnership bid to the Home Office by GMCA, TfGM and Oldham Council secured £550,000 from their Safer Streets fund to improve safety for women and girls on and around the public transport network. The bid was put together following direct feedback from the Gender Based Violence Strategy consultation where street harassment and harassment on public transport was the most frequently raised issue.
  • Domestic abuse remains a priority for GMP, and earlier this year, there was a dedicated operation to target perpetrators of this type of crime. During the operation which took place between Monday 19 July 2021– Saturday 31 July 2021, 230 DA arrests were made across the force – 91 of those arrests were for outstanding perpetrators.
  • The Cut it Out campaign is being rolled out across Greater Manchester. It is an initiative that offers free training to hair and beauty professionals, so they know what domestic abuse is and how to recognise the signs of domestic abuse in their clients to help them get help and support.
  • A working group of people from housing, councils and GMCA are working to develop a Greater Manchester cross-border housing reciprocal arrangement to assist those subjected to domestic abuse – a commitment in the Gender-Based Violence Strategy.
  • A pilot project commissioned by Greater Manchester NHS partners was launched called ADViSE, which aims to support sexual health staff to identify and respond to patients affected by domestic violence.
  • Wigan Council was awarded more than £273,000 by the Home Office to support a wide range of interventions on women and girls’ safety, including work with schools and colleges to change the attitudes of men and boys and training for staff in licensed premises.


Deputy Mayor for Policing, Crime and Criminal Justice, Baroness Bev Hughes, said: “I’ve long campaigned for and worked on improving the safety of women and girls against a backdrop of societal attitudes and behaviours that have allowed sexual harassment in public spaces to go on for far too long. The tide is now turning on what was once deemed tolerable behaviours such as catcalls or unwanted sexual comments or jokes. It was never OK in the past and it’s not OK now.

“While some might say we should be focusing our energies on serious and violent crime against women and girls, and we are, we must also recognise that gender-based violence is on a continuum. Turning a blind eye to everyday harassment gives some men and boys licence to go further and can lead to horrific consequences for the victim.

“The common thread running through all these types of behaviours is that too many men and boys feel entitled to say and do whatever they want to women and girls, and that is just not acceptable.

“We want to galvanise the work across our city-region led by our councils, GMP, public transport, charities, students, schools and activists to tackle gender-based violence in all its forms. To do so it’s vital we continue to work together in our shared objective including through the work of the Gender-Based Violence Board.”

GMCA has worked closely with the organisation Right To Walk on gender-based violence who have supported the video.

Rebekah Spratt, co-founder of Right To Walk said: “Low-level harassment is probably one of the most common forms of abuse that women are forced to face every day. It can be intimidating, annoying, frustrating and even at times, triggering. 

“This is an educational matter. Working with GMCA on these issues, it is our utmost hope that these problems are addressed and considered by all – so that ultimately, we can learn and continue the conversations where they matter most.”

Emily Sutton, co-founder of Right To Walk said: “We’re so proud to support and advise GMCA on this incredibly important and vital issue that women face. Low-level harassment may seem to many as nothing serious, when in fact it’s incredibly serious because it can spiral into more dangerous offences if not stopped. We must prevent these dangerous crimes and violence towards women from the offset, it should always be about prevention.” 

The video can be downloaded here.


Article Published: 16/12/2021 16:57 PM