The aunt of murdered aspiring lawyer Zara Aleena has said she is “always hopeful” that a system, which is “broken across the board” and does not protect women, can change.
Farah Naz was speaking as she joined hundreds of people who marched to remember and grieve for women and girls killed through male violence and to call for action to tackle it.
Supporters of the Million Women Rise (MWR) collective who walked through central London’s West End shopping district to Trafalgar Square on Saturday claimed that the lack of action against male violence amounted to state inflicted or sanctioned abuse.
They drummed, chanted and carried signs saying “together we can end male violence” and “women are not the problem” during the protest ahead of International Women’s Day on Wednesday.
She added: “Zara has brought me, my sister and my friends here but we are here for all women, all girls, to make a change and to make some meaning out of the tragedy that has happened to us.
“We are in trauma but at the same time we are really heartened by the support in society of all sectors and leaders.
“We are hopeful that things can change for other women and girls.
Failings in the probation service were among the issues which meant a known perpetrator was free to murder Ms Aleena.
Jordan McSweeney, 29, was handed a life sentence and jailed for at least 38 years after admitting sexually assaulting and murdering the 35-year-old law graduate in Ilford, east London, in June last year.
“Zara’s loss is society’s loss and we have, as victims, to become more than that. There has to be work with communities and leaders.
“The protest today is shining a light on the mistakes and on a system that is broken across the board.
“We know from Zara’s case that probation made a series of mistakes, huge errors, that are so deeply painful for us as a family, and for us as a society to be aware of, because it means that women are not safe.”
The number of women who are murdered is a sign that something is wrong, she added.
Ms Naz said: “We already know that domestic violence leads to so many deaths and, that as it is not treated as any other form of violence, we have seen a lack of convictions which then releases men to murder women.
“We know that probation has collapsed because of the privatisation that has happened and has then led to a system that is broken and has not been attended to.
“We know that government leaders have failed us.
“We know that the systems have failed us but there are also people working to change that.”
Danyal Hussein was jailed for a minimum of 35 years after murdering sisters Nicole Smallman, 27, and Bibaa Henry, 46, in 2020.
Deniz Jaffer and Jamie Lewis, a pair of Met Police constables who took photos of the murdered sisters and shared the images on WhatsApp groups, were later jailed.
In a video message of support, Mina Smallman, the mother of the sisters, told the marchers: “We have so much important work to do.
“The slogan I would like us all to adopt is that ‘it’s time’. We have had enough talk. We have had enough rhetoric. Now we are demanding that those in power put girls and women’s safety at the forefront.”
MWR also noted that serial rapist David Carrick kept his job as a Metropolitan Police officer despite multiple reports against him, allowing him to commit a string of offences over almost 20 years.
The disgraced 48-year-old Pc, who was described as a “monster” and “evil” by some of his dozen victims, was jailed for life with a minimum term of 32 years after carrying out a “catalogue of violent and brutal” sex attacks between 2003 and 2020.
The cost-of-living crisis is also trapping women with perpetrators and decimating vital support services, MWR warned.