Creating Youth Power Through Safe Spaces

Written by CorpsAfrica/Malawi Volunteer Ms. Angella Chizimba

We know that young people aren’t just the leaders of tomorrow, they are working to transform their communities today. Safe spaces help girls develop into leaders and change-makers. As the United Nations explains, safe spaces can be found in any type of setting. They are inclusive and promote civil discourse, ensuring that young people from diverse backgrounds feel comfortable and respected as they learn to express themselves and contribute to community life.

We create these spaces to provide participants from all backgrounds with a place to come together to build their skills. During my service, I have been lucky enough to work in a safe space with the girls in my community who are between the ages of 13 and 24. We discuss main areas of concern of girls including health, hygiene and gender-based violence.

Though adolescence is usually a period for young people to gain the education, knowledge, and skills needed to shape a secure future, this isn’t a given in many communities around the world.  As I grew up, in my early years I had someone who encouraged me to face challenges head on. My youth services at church was my safe space and we could share and openly speak about issues. Many people are not so fortunate to have all that. Safe spaces help fill this gap, it’s a safe haven.

Marginalized girls often lack access to quality education and healthcare, decision-making power and the ability to make choices about their own lives. Safe spaces provide them with emotional support and physical support.

This has been the case for Atupele, a young girl aged 20 years. Atupele was born epileptic. She experienced a hard time in school to the point that she dropped out. Having lost both parents at a young age, she stayed with her relatives, but it was not easy for her. She was locked at home to do all chores and take care of other children. She could not associate with others or do anything for herself. In other words, she was powerless. Her relatives were approached to allow her be part of the safe space. Luckily after some time, they allowed it. She started attending the safe space and she opened up and joined another club where she is learning how to sew clothes, which will help her earn her living in the near future. Without safe space, she could have not been confident enough to learn a skill, make friends and learn more about her human rights.

Just like Atupele, there are a lot of cases out there that need such groupings. Young girls need to build their confidence, need to learn skills, they need to associate with others to learn different issues pertaining to their health, hygiene and gender based violence. “Safe space is a home for me, it’s comforting to be among girls experiencing life challenges and finding solutions together. I am learning a lot of things everyday,” said Atupele.

​Most of them lack motivation to take them through life. They need a confidence boost. I am so glad that in this short time, I could work with such girls and experienced change in their lives. As I experience change in these girls’ lives, my life is changing as well.

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