Over 75 businesses have signed up to the region’s first Women’s Night Safety Charter, a new scheme aimed at protecting women out in the West Midlands at night.

The charter sets out guidance for venues, operators, charities, councils and businesses to improve safety at night for women – including better training of staff, encouraging the reporting of harassment, and ensuring public spaces are safe.

Women’s Night Safety Charter holds successful launch event

The Women’s Night Safety Charter, set up by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), is the first of its kind covering the entire region. Businesses who have already signed up include the NEC Group, the HMV Empire in Coventry, and Kings Heath’s iconic Hare and Hounds pub. In addition to the charter, £45,000 has been secured to help the region’s business improvement districts implement the safety measures.

The charter’s measures, which include plans to appoint a Women’s Night Safety Champion for the West Midlands, aim to help lower the risk of crime against women when they are working or enjoying a night out.

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and Chair of the WMCA, said: “I am proud to be here in Coventry today to help officially launch the Women’s Night Safety Charter, a pioneering initiative covering our entire region. Everyone has a role to play in ensuring the safety of women at night and through the charter we’re helping to provide a supportive environment for those working, travelling or enjoying our region at night.”

“No one should be having to deal with unwanted sexual advances, harassment or intimidation and we urge all businesses to participate, implementing these practical actions to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone in the West Midlands, day or night.”

The seven principles of the West Midlands Women’s Night Safety Charter are:

1. Champion: Appoint a champion to drive forward action.

2. Communicate: Create a positive public/staff facing communications campaign, both online and in venues.

3. Support your staff: Make clear the routes for reporting unacceptable behaviour while at work and supporting cultural change.

4. Support the public: Communicate routes for reporting unacceptable behaviour while using a business service or space at night.

5. Training: Provide staff training and any relevant policies, including what staff can and cannot say and do.

6. Recording: Ensure staff training on information sharing and appropriate recording of details.

7. Design for safety: Audit venues and spaces and adapt them to promote a safer environment and reduce risk of crime and sexual misconduct. 

Laura Shoaf, chief executive of the WMCA, said: “I’m really pleased to be announcing the Women’s Night Safety Charter. We are here not only to support the launch of the charter but support local initiatives which help to tackle violence against women and girls in our night time economy.

“This is personally really important to me as someone who was asked by the government to be one of two transport champions at the Combined Authority working to prevent violence against women and girls. We are positive that this Charter and other initiatives can be used as part of a step in the right direction to achieving this.

“We are also intending to develop a LGBTQ+ equivalent charter so please look out for that in the coming weeks.”

Joanne Glover, manager for Coventry Business Improvement District (BID), said: “We wholeheartedly support the initiative of the Women’s Night Safety Charter. In our city, the charter is a vital tool to enhance safety standards and foster a secure environment for businesses and customers alike.

“As a Woman this gives me confidence that when I go out in Coventry it makes me feel more at ease and less vulnerable knowing people are committed to the charter and making the area safe as possible.”

Ms Glover said the WMCA has demonstrated a “progressive approach” nurturing a vibrant and thriving after-hours landscape. “By adhering to its principles, businesses can cultivate trust among customers, foster a welcoming atmosphere, and contribute to the overall prosperity of our night time economy.”

Some of those businesses taking part in the event gave free training packages to attendees, including bystander training – how every day bystanders can, with the right skills, intervene to make a positive different in an otherwise risky situation – and wider venue training.

Calico, a social enterprise which raises awareness about women’s safety through theatre and dance, brought a virtual reality experience – ‘Curfew’ – to show users how unwanted harassment can unfold on a night out.

Daz Scott, a co-founder and director of Calico, said: “We applaud the launch of the Women’s Night Safety Charter in the West Midlands.

“As young women ourselves, we personally recognise the urgency of creating safer night time spaces, and are encouraged by the West Midlands Combined Authority’s commitment to enabling systematic change.

“We urge every entity in the West Midlands to sign up, join this movement, and contribute to making our streets and night-time venues truly welcoming and secure for everyone.”

Richard Gray, ambassador lead at Hollie Gazzard Trust, said the charity’s personal safety app – Hollie Guard – has been downloaded over 500,000 times. The trust, created following the murder of 20-year-old Hollie Gazzard in 2014 by an ex-partner, helps reduce domestic violence through creating and delivering programmes on domestic abuse. The charity delivered a session on active bystander skills to help members of the public challenge inappropriate behaviour.

“We are proud to be supporting the WMCA by signing up to the Women’s Night Safety Charter and showing our commitment to improving the night time safety of all women in the West Midlands,” he said.

“For the last 10 years, the Trust has been focused on reducing the instances of domestic abuse, violence and stalking that are so prevalent in our communities – Hollie suffered all of these in the time leading up to her death.

“As well as having a stand at the Night Safety Charter event, our training equips a bystander with the skills to safely intervene to stop events before they happen, or while they are happening. With a need for more Active Bystander capable people in society, we’re keen to support as many organisations as possible in the West Midlands.”

Ian Shuttleworth, a Licensing Security and Vulnerability Initiative Development Officer for Police CPI, an arms length policing organisation, said: “Although female safety and violence against women and girls is now seeing a greater focus, more still needs to be done, so that women feel safer, not just in the night time economy, but in every aspect of daily life.

“Bringing together organisations and initiatives such as Licensing SAVI to support venues in staff training and venue assessments, where venues can show that they have a strong reputation for ensuring the safety and security of their customers, and staff and who know how to deal with all types of vulnerability, can only help support and contribute to that feeling of safety, attracting more people to the region.”

Pictured From L-R: Sam Hennerley, Co-Founder of Safer Dance; Joanne Glover, Coventry BID Manager; Iwona Kossek, Director Of People And Projects for Six till Six; Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands; Roksana Kasprzyk, founder of Safe Queen; Daz Scott, co-founder of Calico; and Alex Claridge, Night Time Economy Adviser for the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).