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Halifax takes steps to help ensure women’s public safety

Women at safety audit training session discuss triggers that make them feel unsafe

3 min read
caption Participant Suzy Hansen marking places as safe and unsafe during the training session.
Sarah Khan

Halifax is looking for ways to make its public spaces safer for women.

On Saturday, the city’s public safety office organized a women’s safety audit training session to identify issues affecting women’s safety. The training’s main goal was to share recommendations of ways to improve the sense of safety in public spaces.

These recommendations came from local women who drew from their everyday experiences in Halifax. The training acted as a tool to let them speak about their daily experiences and what triggers them to feel unsafe.

Kathryn Travers, a development officer for the equal participation of women for the Montreal-based development group Concentration Montreal, facilitated the training.

“It could be a place that women detour to avoid, could be vacant lots, groups of young men who have gathered where you experience harassment,” said Travers.

caption Kathryn Travers (centre) addressing the participants.
Sarah Khan

The training at Halifax’s North Branch Library took two days. The first day focused on learning safety tools, while the second was about practicing how to train others.

“One of the things that the safety audits do is they rely on people’s sense of safety. So, how safe we feel in a space,” said Travers. “And women, in particular, are in touch with that sense of safety. We use that to guide the discussion.”

The training focused on primarily two neighbourhoods: downtown Halifax and the city’s North End.

“The North End has always been a really strong place for community organizing and community voice,” said Amy Siciliano, the public safety adviser for HRM. “So, it really aligns with the work this library does and has been doing for a long time.”

But the audit will not only be limited to two neighbourhoods. Siciliano said Halifax plans to expand its reach to several areas of the city.

“This is the beginning of a project that hopefully won’t end. There is not any timeline for this, we can take this out to different neighbourhoods, libraries, communities, and women’s centres and replicate the process we’re doing here across HRM,” said Siciliano.

Mayor Mike Savage was also present at the training to celebrate Halifax’s recent acceptance into the UN Women’s global flagship program Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces.

“We’ve joined a growing number of cities around the world who worked to prevent violence against women and we know that it’s a big issue,” said Savage in his speech. “Here in Halifax, at least one sexual assault case is reported every day.”

People who attended the training felt that women’s safety issues were not being taken seriously.

Huwaida Medani, a participant at the training session, said the community at large needs to be educated on what problems women can face outside of their homes.

“It’s important to look very deeply on what women’s issues exist when it comes to the city and public space planning. I think it’s important for women to understand what kind of barriers we have,” said Medani.

“How come we don’t enjoy this city the same way the men in the city enjoy it?”

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About the author

Sarah Khan

I am from India studying journalism at the University of Kings College. I love going on hikes and cooking!

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