A new art mural, designed to spark conversations about the Violence Against Women and Girls agenda, has been installed in Leeds city centre by the council.
Based on a key gateway into the city centre, the mural has been designed and created by graffiti artist, Harriet Wood, who studied at Leeds Art University and has been recognised as one of the Top 5 female graffiti artists in the UK.
As part of the commissioned collaboration, Harriet worked with and sought inspiration from a number of young women through the Getaway Girls – an alliance of Women Friendly Leeds, who empower young women to support each other, build confidence and resilience so they can lead safe, healthy and fulfilled lives. The Getaway Girls were integral to the look and feel that has been created.
Violence against women and girls
Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is a serious issue in the UK. According to Refuge, 1 in 4 women experience domestic abuse in England and Wales.
Additionally, women in the UK also face other forms of violence, such as sexual violence, stalking, harassment, and forced marriage. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that there were an estimated 695,000 incidents of sexual assault and 80,000 cases of rape or attempted rape in the year ending March 2020.
It is important to note that violence against women and girls can have a profound impact on the mental and physical health of victims, as well as on their social and economic wellbeing.
The UK Government has introduced various measures to address VAWG, including legislation such as the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, which provides new protections for victims and makes it easier to prosecute offenders. The Government has also committed to investing in support services for victims and raising awareness of the issue through campaigns and initiatives.
However, there is still much work to be done to eliminate violence against women and girls in the UK. Just last month it was found that 9 out of 10 complaints of police violence against women were dropped.
It is important for individuals, communities, and institutions to work together to challenge harmful attitudes and behaviours, provide support to victims, and hold perpetrators accountable for their actions.
Responses to the Mural
Emily Turner, Project Manager at Women’s Lives Leeds described the mural as a “vibrant, prominent and powerful” initiative which “sends a strong message to communities… we want women and girls to ‘Speak Up’ and have their voices heard. Ultimately, we all strive for a city where women and girls feel safe and are safe”.
Moreover, Councillor Debra Coupar, Leeds City Council’s executive member for resources with responsibility for Safer Leeds, said that the mural symbolizes messages and images from women and girls across Leeds. She stated that “Raising awareness of the issue, helping people to see that it is ok to speak up, it is ok to challenge is such an important part of our fight against this kind of violence.”
This Mural is an important piece of art which combines creativity with the need for tackling social issues. The mural demonstrates inclusivity and diversity, along with drawing attention to the prevalence of violence against women and girls and effectively represents their experiences.