Credit: Sarah Farrance

Midwifery students take stand against cat-calling in Cardiff

One in five women have experienced street harassment over lockdown, says survey

TWO midwifery students are chalking statistics and personal stories of harassment on the streets of Cardiff in a campaign against cat-calling.  

#ChalkBack is an international youth-led movement aiming to end gender-based street harassment by writing real stories in chalk and posting them to Instagram.

Sarah Farrance, 22, and Grace Davies-Packham, 20, began the Instagram @catcallsofcaerdydd in January 2021.

The two midwifery students hope that seeing the words written in chalk on the streets will raise awareness of the issue and deter those who catcall from continuing to do so.

Street harassment is often an isolating experience, said Sarah. The experience of being catcalled can leave you wanting to “disappear”.

Unfortunately, street harassment isn’t a rare occurrence for young women. 

According to Plan International UK, 32% of women between 14 and 21 receive verbal harassment once a month in Wales.  

Plan International UK is calling for the Welsh Government to include street harassment in the Violence Against Women and Girls strategy in order to tackle the issue.

About one in five women in the UK have experienced street harassment during lockdown, says a survey by Plan International UK

Originally from Bristol, Sarah has experienced street harassment many times while living in Cardiff.  

“On the way to to meet Grace to chalk on Queen Street I was catcalled by men in a van, I just thought to myself this is the most ironic thing. They shouted, ‘hello sexy’ at me,” said Sarah. 

“It’s the injustice of feeling unsafe where you live. 

“Once, I was cleaning the outside windows of my house and I was shouted at by people in a car. I just thought; you’ve got the audacity to shout at me while I’m stood outside my own property?” she said. 

Young women in Cardiff are frequently verbally harassed, especially on the streets of the city centre.

Lucy Darby, 21, who lives in Cardiff, said an older man shouted at her and her friends “get your tits out girls” as they cycled to Cardiff Bay. 

Another student, who wants to remain anonymous, said a group of boys in a car shouted, “How much love?” at her on Newport Road. 

Our Streets Now is campaigning to make street harassment a criminal offence in the UK. The petition has received nearly 25,000 signatures.

As second year university students, Sarah and Grace hope to continue chalking and posting on Instagram throughout their time in Cardiff. 

Sarah (left) and Grace (right) with a chalk outline that reads “It’s not a compliment”, on Castle Street. Credit: Sarah Farrance

“The reasons I wanted to go into midwifery match up with why I started chalking. A lot to do with female empowerment and being an advocate for people,” said Grace. 

Sarah and Grace are urging women to get in contact with their personal stories via their Instagram.

“Everything we share and chalk will be anonymous. I do think personal stories are more impactful,” said Sarah. 

A spokesperson for the Welsh Government said:

“It is wholly unacceptable for anyone to experience violence, abuse and harassment, wherever they may be. Our goal is to make Wales the safest place in Europe for women.

“In 2015 we brought in landmark legislation the Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act – the first of its kind in the UK. It aims to improve responses to VAWDASV but more importantly help victims and prevent abuse happening in the first place.”