Reclaim the Night will once again take place this year in Wellington, the non-violent march for women of all ages converging on the city’s entertainment zone and symbolically taking back their right to a world without rape and violence. It is an international event organised to raise awareness of these issues and to bear witness to the violent crimes perpetrated against women everywhere.
The marches have been going on since 1979, with a brief hiatus in the late 80s through to the mid nineties. The ball really got rolling in 1999, when “several hundred women marched from Chaffers Park to Frank Kitts Park” on Friday 26th November, as reported in City Voice. That year, the collective organising the action included VUW Women’s group, headed by Nicki Burrows as WRO, and women from the Wellington Women’s Centre and Wellington Independent Rape Crisis. Women’s Centres from Kapiti and Lower Hutt sent large contingents, and a template for future actions, was formed.
In 2000, Wellington Independent Rape Crisis organised the event as a major campaign, again with input and support from the Women’s Centres and the university Women’s Group, with WRO Dayna Berghan committing VUWSA support. “I am woman and if I Live I Fight and if I Fight I contribute to the Liberation of all women and so victory is born even in the darkest hours” was the script on the reverse of flyers describing the purpose of the event, and was handed out to spectators watching the march go past. This was teamed with a graphic of a woman in a self-defence stance, to great effect. The march began in Civic Square and finished in Cuba Mall (with the after- party at Bluenote Bar). Each year the marches continued; in 2003, fliers stated marchers were “about revealing the fact that women’s homes continue to be where the majority of violence takes place” and the organizers extended a welcome to transgender and transsexual people, as well as the usual women and children.
In 2004, Wellington Independent Rape Crisis had a change of personnel and a change of focus, and chose not to be associated with the action. The collective was reformed with Lenka Rochford as spokesperson, and the message of collective action for women’s safety repeated the fliers stating “So many women are scared to walk alone on the streets at night. We are scared of being raped or assaulted. But the majority of violence against women happens in their home, not on the street.” Let’s reclaim Wellington streets as a safe space for women… Let’s celebrate our strength as women. Let’s honour the victims of rape and abuse.
Let’s Reclaim The Night!” In 2004 The Wellingtonian reported around 100 marchers, who took a route from Civic Square encompassing Manners St, Courtenay Place and Dixon St, accompanying their story with a photo of very energetic fire-poi whirling from Caro Henckels. 2005 saw a late attempt to organize stalemated due to lack of funds, and a shift to involvement in the Auckland “Take Back the Night” event at the end of October, which was attended by a contingent of Wellington feminists.
This year, a new collective has formed, once again comprising feminists from on and off campus, and the date of Thursday, 23 November 2006 has been chosen. The VUW Women’s Group is once again part of the project, and the Reclaim the Night Collective is open to involvement from any women from the greater Wellington Region.
Men are asked to support this event by respecting women’s need to organize independently against violence. Meetings are being held each Wednesday at 5.30pm at 128 Able Smith St, Te Aro. For more information, phone 972 7260, check out the website www.wellingtonreclaimthenight. blogspot.com, or get in touch with the WRO on campus, email@example.com or phone Caroline in the VUWSA workroom, 463 6980.