Hundreds of determined women marched along Southend High Street demanding an end to gender-based violence.

Organised by Southend Council and domestic abuse charity Safe Steps, yesterday afternoon of activism began at 2pm, with charity stalls based at the IronWorks in the High Street.

At 5pm, Helen Boyd, Conservative councillor for Blenheim Park, gave a speech on the importance of raising awareness through events such as Reclaim the Night - a national women-only march against sexual violence and promoting gender equality.

Women marched down the High Street with banners and chanting in a bid to raise awareness.

Ms Boyd said: “We are raising awareness about violence against women and girls, and the support available to victims of abuse.

“It’s very regrettable this is still necessary in the twentieth century, but Southend is doing quite a lot to ensure women and girls are protected. Southend is not an unsafe place to be, but they need to know support is available.”

The march started shortly after Mrs Boyd’s speech, led by Karen Etherington from Safe Steps. Armed with a megaphone, she and hundreds of others chanted: “Women unite, reclaim the night!”

They also chanted “Who’s streets? Our streets!”

Among those marching were Alison Smith MBE, 70, of Salisbury Avenue, Westcliff and Ros Dunhill, 73, from Hadleigh.

They are vice-chair and chair of trustees respectively, at the Southend Rape Crisis charity.

They took part in a similar march in Southend in the mid-1980s, so felt determined to join in.

Alison said: “The sad thing is 40 years later; we’re still having to march.”

Ros added: “We’re still here in 2023, so it’s been a long struggle. But we will reclaim the night.”

Katrina Edwards, domestic abuse strategy and commissioning manager at Southend Council attended the march.

She said: “It’s really important for us to support what’s happening elsewhere in the country. We can’t deny there is abuse going on in other parts of the country.

“We’ve done extensive work in Southend to support victims of domestic abuse. But we also share the work of our partners, such as SOS Rape Crisis, Aspirations, Brook sexual advice centre, Better Start Southend, the Police Community Safety Team and Trust Links.

“Women supporting women is the most important thing. It’s really important they do.

“The stereotype is women are told to battle it out but we should stand together.”