My friend, Mary Ann, and I used to walk a long distance to our weekly Girl Guides meetings. Along leafy tree-lined streets, across our main street, down a couple of side streets to the Legion Hall. Girl Guides met in the basement.

In summer, it was always dark when we walked home. In winter it was dark both ways. I remember well the night our Girl Guide leader sat us down for 'street training,' what to do if we (all of us) were ever followed or approached on foot or tailed by people in a car. She told us how to keep our eyes open and how to be aware. I think it was the end of a series on First Aid. The year was 1963 and our town had a population of 4,200.

Since then I've lived in huge cities and small cities and I guess the rules are sort of the same.

There isn't likely a woman alive in Canada today who hasn't felt that 'throat closing fear' of being followed while you're walking alone somewhere. It could be coming back from the library and walking through a park. It could be in broad daylight. It could be at night.

My dear first husband says frequently when he's out walking, if he sees a woman ahead of him, he can tell that she's scared because she hears him behind her, quickens her pace, and tries to put greater distance between them. "I'd just like to call out that I'm not going to hurt her, that it's okay!," he says. But calling out likely wouldn't make her feel any safer.

Women and girls have felt this kind of fear forever, as assault, sexual assault, and threats continue to be part of our culture... all over the world. In fact, according to Athena Sexual Assault Counselling & Advocacy Centre, a woman in Canada is raped every 17 minutes.

Since the mid 70's, in countries across the world, women have been joining together for strength and marching out their message that they deserve to be safe on their streets. Next Thursday, September 27, women and girls from Barrie area will be holding their 13th Take Back the Night march. While men are invited to support from the sidelines and at the before and after ceremonies and concerts, the march is for women and girls alone. Athena and Huronia Transition Homes are the organizing bodies for this year's Take Back the Night march in Barrie. Barrie has its own sad history of women who have been attacked and murdered during broad daylight and nighttime hours.

Barrie's Rotunda is the gathering point for a 6 pm start with speeches and encouragement from Kathy Willis, Executive Director of Huronia Transition Homes. Faith Nolan, activist and folk singer, will lead the march and perform during it. Following the march, concert performances at the Rotunda will include the Rip Nancies, all girl rock band.

Women, girls, men and boys are invited to take part by either walking or cheering from the sidelines.

The march begins at the Rotunda, and proceeds west on Collier, across Bayfield and west on Ross St to Mary St. Then walkers head south on Mary to Dunlop St.  Left (east) onto Dunlop over to Mulcaster.  North up the hill on Mulcaster and back to the Rotunda at City Hall.

Apryl Munro, Community Relations and Marketing Coordinator for Athena's and Huronia Transition Homes says the event is expected to draw over 300 women and girls to the march.

A former television videographer, Apryl covered this event in earlier years and was so moved by the experience that she is now working full time for the organization. She explains that Huronia Transition Homes, organizer of this event, is the umbrella for three programs, Athena Sexual Assault Centre, Choices for Children and the Rosewood Shelter for Women in Midland.

Purpose of next Thursday's march is to make streets (day or night) safe for women and girls. The march has grown in numbers over its 13 years and certainly focussed on a non-violent, street-safe experience for women.

A night to be celebrated for sure. Thanks, Apryl. Thanks, Kathy.

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