Edmonton has become one of a handful of cities around the world to be recognized as a partner in the United Nations Women Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces Program. It’ll now learn new strategies to help address and prevent sexual violence.
The launch was marked at an event at City Hall. “Edmonton has some of the highest reported incidents of sexual violence in the country so that I think it’s quite appropriate that city council decided to address this head on,” said Alberta’s Minister of Status of Women, Stephanie McLean.
“I think that we will see a decrease in the rates of sexual violence in the city, and I think it’s a bold commitment to say that the plan is to do so with in a generation.”
Mayor Don Iveson said ideas will build on what has already changed on Edmonton Transit, where the stickers for the ‘call button’ have been re-worded.
“It doesn’t say ‘press in the case of emergency – penalty for misuse’ which discourages people if they’re hesitant to call for help. It now just says ‘call for help’ and people are encouraged to call for help if they’re experiencing a situation where they feel vulnerable or where something negative is happening. People shouldn’t think twice about calling for help.”
Iveson said “Anecdotally” he’s heard of an increase in use. An e-mail from Edmonton Transit’s Jennifer Laraway said the “Safe Person, Safe Place” campaign has made people more comfortable using the system calling for help.
Laraway also wrote some high profile incidents happened off transit property, but transit call phones were used to seek help.
The province is contributing $25,000 to the launch of the program. McLean said the money will be used ‘to take a pulse of what’s going on in the city.” She said her ministry is also contributing a portion of a full time employee to assist through the entire project.
The UN Women Safe Cities program was launched in November 2010. It’s the first global initiative that supports cities in developing approaches to prevent and respond to sexual violence against women and girls in public spaces.