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Special Women’s Safety Walk held in Ilford

The walk was led by Redbridge Council (credit: Redbridge Council)

A Special Women’s Safety Walk retracing some of Zara Aleena’s steps took place through Ilford.

Redbridge Council led the walk on Tuesday, 13 December which was designed to help everyone see things from a women’s perspective.

The 35-year-old law graduate was murdered and sexually assaulted when she was on her way home from a night out with friends in June.

Leader of Redbridge Council, Cllr Jas Athwal, Deputy Leader, Kam Rai and Women’s Champion, Saima Ahmed were among those who attended the walk.

Cllr Jas Athwal said: “Women’s safety obviously has hit the headlines recently starting with Sarah Everard, Sabina Nessa and now Zara Aleena. What we’re trying to do is make sure that women’s safety is right at the forefront and these safety walks are designed to make sure we see life from a women’s perspective – I think it highlights some of the blind spots we have in the borough.

The walk was held the day before Jordan McSweeney, 29, was handed a life sentence for Zara’s murder.

“It’s one of complete and utter devastation. Words can’t express the pain and anguish Zara’s family must have felt, must be feeling and will be feeling forever. It’s one of those tragic situations which we can not start to comprehend. It’s been such a sad situation in the whole of London and beyond. People are still coming to terms with how someone could behave in such a manner.

“There are changes we’ve made, more CCTV, better street lighting, making sure that we cover areas with our enforcement team and I think it’s been quite an eye opener,” continued Cllr Jas Athwal.

“There are other things we’ve started to do. We’ve brought out a Public Space Protection Order which is basically making sure we have covert operations with the police to look at on street harassment. I’m glad the government have now decided they’re going to outlaw this – I think it’s the right thing to do.”

Cllr Jas Athwal said: “We were the first Council in the country to bring that out and carry out covert operations to make sure that men realise it’s their behaviour that needs to change & that they haven’t got a right to a women’s body. This is a man’s problem, not a women’s. The women have been absolutely superb. We men have to look at our behaviour, our own vision and I think that’s what we’re trying to do.”

“We’ve got teams going out into schools. We’ve been doing that for some time now, making sure that we don’t just talk to the girls when they’re 14, 15, 16 as they start hitting puberty but that we also talk to boys. It’s having role models in the community, making sure that we deal with these issues at a very early age because education will lead to better outcomes and that’s something that we’re concentrating on as well.”

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