Adolescent Girl Life Skills: How and when to access community services
General Adolescent Life Skills: Problem Solving and Identifying Alternative Solutions
Once girls understand their rights and can make informed decisions and think critically about their health, hygiene, sexuality, body, education, economic opportunities, gender and the relationships in their lives, the next step is for girls to understand how and when to access various community services that could help them. Often girls do not know where to go if they are experiencing abuse, or if they have specific questions or concerns related to menstruating or sexual and reproductive health. Sometimes the police are the right choice, sometimes they are not. NGOs might provide trauma counselling or job skills courses, and there might be clinics with special GBV wards. When girls know how to access these services and aren’t afraid to do so, they greatly reduce emotional and physical health risks and gain valuable care, information and support.
Trusted coaches or female facilitators are ideal for introducing girls to these services. They can take the girls on visits to various service providers and introduce them, in non-threatening and comfortable ways, to point people at the institutions who can help the girls get the treatment or help they need. This initial introduction through a sport programme field trip can make girls more comfortable and less afraid to access these services outside of the programme later in life. (For more information, see the SRHR Guide and International Guide to Addressing Gender-Based Violence Through Sport.)
With threats such as gender-based violence, abusive relationships and cultural stereotypes that strip girls of their sexual and reproductive health, education, work and leisure rights, it is important for girls to learn how to identify and access the safe spaces around them (both emotional and physical). These may be a certain relative’s house or certain after-school programme, clinic or sport field.
Well-designed sport programmes can be these safe spaces, offering secure playing facilities, trustworthy adults and coaches, and a network of female teammates. Girls can learn to identify and avoid places that could be dangerous and harmful, where they may be taken advantage of or abused and denied their rights. These could be places near bars or empty lots in neighbourhoods, or even, unfortunately, schools and sport programmes themselves. Secondly, girls can learn where their own safe spaces might be and how to get to those safe spaces when they are in danger or feel fear. (For more information, see the Safe Spaces section of this guide on how to ensure your sport programme is a safe space.)
- Create a space that is safe (physically and psychologically) for girls to share their experiences. (For tips on creating safe emotional and phyiscal spaces, see the the Creating Safe Spaces section for more information.)
- Demand that girls respect one another, including opinions, bodies and experiences. With girls’ input, establish ground rules for confidentiality, discussion parameters and leader involvement.