Last month, 31 year old student Nahid Almanea, from Colchester in Essex, was stabbed a total of 16 times as she made her way home. It was an unprovoked attack and the perpetrator is yet to be charged. In light of this, research by the British Crime Survey has found that 1 in 5 women will experience assault in their lifetime. Shockingly, however, only 1 in 10 women will report serious assault to the police.
But did you also know that carrying a personal safety alarm gives you a 97% chance of warding off an attack? The handy and potentially life-saving gadget is something that our Leading Lady of the month, Andrea Clark is championing in a bid to help reduce the staggering number of threats to women’s personal safety. Just think of it as a fashion accessory with an edge.
The inspirational Andrea Clark, www.safe-girl.co.uk
“I started the business when my eldest daughter began to venture into town”, she says. “But when I searched for a personal alarm for her to carry, for some extra reassurance, I couldn’t find one that she would be happy to be seen with. They all seemed bulky and ugly. I wanted to inspire teens, girls and young women to carry an alarm by creating something stylish and glamorous.”
Her fantastic business, Safe-Girl, offers a number of personal alarms that are disguised as key ring accessories or bag charms with others in the form of door wedges so that students can feel comfortable in halls and dorms while away at university. It’s a truly innovative and inspirational business but just how seriously do we take our own personal safety in today’s society?
Andrea believes that it’s something a lot of people take for granted. “Nobody wants to put a dampener on the evening, we just want to go out and have fun with our friends,” she says. “But if the unthinkable does happen, it can ruin not just a night out, but whole lives. It’s easy to factor in personal safety into your routine, or if you’re going out at night, it just takes a bit of forward thinking and awareness.”
Door wedge security alarm, £13.99, www.safe-girl.co.uk
With countless alcohol fuelled assaults taking place on university campuses it’s no wonder that personal alarms are increasing in popularity amongst young women. But it’s also on alcohol fuelled nights out where personal safety takes a back seat. More and more of us are letting our responsibilities slide and a survey has recently revealed that 1 in 5 females will often walk home alone after a party. So what can we do to make sure that our personal safety doesn’t hang in the balance?
Andrea advises us to plan our journeys there and back before we even step out of our front doors. “Try to stick to well-lit areas if you are walking, and stay with friends,” she says. “Book a taxi if you can and tell somebody where you are going if you are alone.”
It’s also a good idea to think about what you are wearing, suggests Andrea. “Take some flat shoes out with you as you can’t run in heels. Never wear earphones when walking alone at night, so you are aware of any potential dangers around you.”
Right now, Andrea has a growing business and a family to keep her on her toes, but it wasn’t all plain sailing as she actually experienced a threat to her own personal safety a few years ago. Just after setting up the business she entered an emotionally and physically abusive relationship. “It lasted 18 months, and when I escaped, I was suffering from PTSD. So, I had never really been able to concentrate on Safe Girl and, to be honest, it was by then the last thing on my mind,” she revealed.
Heart trinket alarm, £9.99, www.safe-girl.co.uk
Yet Andrea didn’t let that deter her. Allowing her entrepreneurial spirit to shine through, she got back on the business bandwagon and turned Safe Girl into a roaring success. “A few months on, and the experience made me stronger than ever,” she says. “I was determined to raise awareness of women’s safety both out on the street and inside their own homes. I now work with women’s domestic violence charities, including Women’s Aid, and blog about domestic violence at: www.theeternalvictim.com”.
However, it’s not just the message of staying safe that Andrea promotes as a woman. Her work ethic really astounds and it’s obvious that she is extremely passionate about running her business. So what advice would she give to young aspiring entrepreneurs looking to follow in her footsteps? She says it’s all about finding something you love rather than chasing the money.
“When I left school, I thought I needed to go to college then be employed in a job,” she recalls. “I thought that owning a business was for rich people. That was so wrong. It is possible for almost anyone to start their own business, under almost any circumstances. You may well do badly at first but you’ll learn quickly, as it’s your neck on the line. I’d say it’s a much better education than college. For me, it is a passion first and a business after.”
Sport personal alarm and pedometer, £19.99, www.safe-girl.co.uk
Even though women like Andrea are pioneering fantastic new personal safety measures, there is still so much more that needs to be done to make sure that young girls are constantly aware of their wellbeing, even if they believe they are in a safe environment like their own homes. Often, our safety is marred by the thought that it won’t happen to us, that assault, harassment and abuse are things that are only ever real on a television screen or printed inside newspapers. But Andrea believes that our welfare is something we constantly need to re-evaluate.
“More education and awareness on this issue is essential,” she says. “Only 3% of women in the UK currently carry a personal alarm, so clearly there’s scope for more here. For the most part, increasing your own personal safety, at home and outside, is just about raising awareness of the threats, dangers and signals. That’s the genuine message we have to share.”
What an inspiration to all young women and aspiring female entrepreneurs. Andrea Clarke – The Streets salutes you.
For more information, and to get your hands on either a personal alarm or any of the other accessories designed to help keep you and your valuable possessions safe, visit the Safe Girl website www.safe-girl.co.uk
Words: Jacqueline Kilikita