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Creating Safe Spaces for Adolescent Girls to Work and Play

Photo: Girl Up girls playing football (soccer) outside the GUIU office in Kampala.

Last week Saturday, October 24th, 2015, girls from St. James Bbiina Primary School visited the Girl Up Initiative Uganda (GUIU) office to enjoy a day of sports, video recording, and reading. The main idea was for the girls to be part of a storytelling experience, where they could get the chance to share what impact the GUIU program is having on their lives with the staff, as well as enjoy a fun and safe space as we intended the GUIU office environment to be.

The day was made possible thanks to the GUIU staff, teachers, and generous supporters from Monte Vista Elementary School in Santa Barbara, CA - GUIU's partner school which donated the books the girls read that afternoon. Each girl got a storybook of interest and embarked on a reading journey, with guidance from the staff.

Photo: Girls reading stories to each other.

Later on, they worked together to brainstorm messages they could relay to their supporters that reflected key lessons and impact in their lives thanks to the Adolescent Girls Program. This was followed by a Q&A session with GUIU's Executive Director Monica Nyiraguhabwa and some games and sports outdoors!

Photo: ED, Monica, with the girls at GUIU's Kampala office.

The girls had the opportunity to discuss the challenges they face in their daily lives and some of the disagreements they have with their peers. GUIU believes this type of interaction in a safe environment is conducive to building up the girls' confidence, and abilty to speak up; and many of them feel that they can easily disclose what is going on in their lives with each other (in addition to with GUIU staff), which has allowed them to form strong social support networks and relationships for the future.

Photo: The girls with take-away messages from the GUIU Adolescent Girls Program.

Girl Up Initiative Uganda works to find a balance between the formal education girls receive in school, and critical life skills that will enable them to be confident and active members of their communities who not only understand and demand their right to an education, but learn the importance of avoiding risky behaviors that can lead to things like early marriage, teenage pregnancy, gender-based violence and HIV/AIDS infection. Our office in located in the Luzira slums, accessible for all the girls to reach, and built to accommodate 20-30 girls and women weekly who can visit to seek counseling services, or engage in activities similar to those on Saturday.

What is a safe space?

As defined by UNFPA , a safe space is 'a formal or informal place where women and girls feel physically and emotionally safe'. GUIU realizes the importance of facilitating such spaces, and sees these supportive ecosystems as a necessary element for developing strong and empowered adolescent girls who are growing up in harsh circumstances, and particularly patriatrchial societies, as they transition into adults.

In what ways do you think communities can best create safe spaces for adolescent girls? Comment below and let us know what you think!

FACT: Did you know that according to the United Nations, when girls participate in sports they are more likely to attend school and participate in society?

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