OPINION: Our blue plaques around Norwich are needed to empower women

The Rosie's Plaques team with the new plaque in memory of Sarah Everard, inset

The Rosie's Plaques team with the new plaque in memory of Sarah Everard, inset - Credit: Rosie's Plaques

Rosie's Plaques, who erect unofficial blue plaques commemorating women, explain why they want to reclaim public places to celebrate women and their safety

Women are tired.

Tired of being told what precautions to take for our own safety, tired of suggestions about how we dress, tired of being constantly vigilant when we’re out on our own, tired of looking behind us.

We’ve had enough of being the ones who have to alter our behaviour. It is women who are being harassed, followed, attacked, raped and killed. It is women who are the victims. How come we’re the ones who need to change?

In March 2021 a young woman, Sarah Everard, was abducted, raped and killed in London by a serving police officer, She was simply walking home from a friend’s house

Demonstrations followed, as women across the country expressed their outrage both at the act and the police response yet by the end of the year a further 100 women had been killed by men.

In Norwich Rosie’s Plaques erected an unofficial blue plaque, one of a series we have installed over the last couple of years commemorating women.

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It states “For our sisters who were just walking home” It sits down an alley – exactly the sort of short cut we wouldn’t think twice about using during the day, but would avoid at night.

We have used it as an image on badges which we have sold to raise money for the Sue Lambert Trust, a local organisation which supports victims of sexual abuse including domestic violence.

How sad that such an organisation needs to exist. How important that it does.

We have a right to be safe both in our homes and on our streets. We have a right not to be shamed as victims.

And yes, we know it’s not all men.

We know that there are many decent, kind supportive fathers, husbands, brother and sons.

But this can’t just be a problem for women. It has to be shared equally between all of us.

We need men to call this out as often and as loudly as we do. We need them not to laugh at the sexist jokes, not to join in the banter which disrespects women, we need them to condemn all acts of violence. We need them to stand for us and with us.

Our city has to be ours to live in freely and without fear - we need to have equal ownership of our public spaces and institutions.

A small part of that is to value the female citizens of Norwich as highly as we do our male ones.

One of the Rosie's Plaques in Norwich

One of the Rosie's Plaques in Norwich - Credit: Archant

We are entitled to half the commemoration spaces, so everyone knows that our women, their places and their stories are as valued as the men who can be found in statues and street names all over Norwich.

Currently, our female heritage is celebrated roughly once for every nine praising male accomplishments.

Our plaques have mainly been for specific women and events.

A Rosie's Plaque dedicated to Dorothy Jewson - the unofficial plaque was put up in 2019

A Rosie's Plaque dedicated to Dorothy Jewson - the unofficial plaque was put up in 2019 - Credit: Rosie's Plaques

Our “for our sisters” plaque was a response to the death of Sarah Everard, but we purposely made it for all women going about their daily lives who had been harmed or killed.

And for all of us who want the right to be able to walk as safely round our city at three in the morning as at three in the afternoon.

What started out as an arts project has become a call to arms.

By reclaiming public spaces and highlighting the achievements of Norwich women we start to reclaim them for all women.

So yes, we’re tired, yes, we’re furious, but we’re also hopeful.

Hopeful that we won’t always be scared for our sisters and our daughters and our mothers.

That it won’t just be the women of Norwich fighting for our safety and our history.

Find out the history of the women in your family and your area and find us at www.rosiesplaques.com and tell us about it.

Our institutions need to keep us safe, and we need to keep us visible.