Promoting Good Relations; Making Safer Places

Women’s Design Service received funding from the Equality and Human Rights Commission for this project, focused in the London Borough of Islington working with refugee women.

WDS worked with IRIS (Islington Refugee Integration Services) and FINFUTURES on this project, building on safety related research undertaken in early 2007 in the identified focus area - Blackstock road in Finsbury Park. Blackstock Road was identified in consultation with a number of agencies and women locally.

The work succeeded in developing links with Arabic, Spanish and Turkish speaking women and it was the Turkish speaking women, of Cyprian, Kurdish and Turkish origin, who formed a group to take the project forward. The women met on a weekly basis to look at safety issues within the area, using WDS’ “Making Safer Places” community safety audit tool.

Making Safer Places (MSP) aims to improve community safety with women in urban environments, to involve women in achieving this as active participants in the change process and to connect women and policy-makers, so that policy is informed by community experience. MSP is a structured process which supports participants and gives them the opportunity to work with other local women to highlight community safety concerns and any community safety ‘hotspots’.

The issues and concerns raised by the women during the project were broad - some relating to thier own personal experiences and some wider community issues. Language barriers were felt to cause feelings of isolation and dependence upon others, often children. Women reported that media coverage of crime in the area could cause alarm and unduly increase safety fears. Concerns over lack of staff on board buses and other means of public transport were raised. The women felt that communal space and having lots of people around was important and made them feel safer. However, this was often hindered by design and planning issues, together with a lack of other women socialising in public spaces (they noticed that most of the people using public space was younger men).

The women who participated in this MSP project felt afterwards that they were better able to address people’s concerns about community safety in the area and were more confident in communicating with other members of the community. The women continue to meet and are keen to provide support to other women in their area and help prevent them from feeling isolated.

The women presented their findings and concerns to Islington Council at a meeting that was well attended, and some of these issues are now being addressed by councillors.

This project was supported with funding from the Equality and Human Rights Commission