Creating a Safe Space

Participants and their families must trust that all activities associated with a sport programme occur in a secure environment. Addressing safety concerns must be a top priority for all sport programmes that seek to empower girls.

Martha Brady of the Population Council has written extensively about the concept of sport programmes creating “safe spaces” for adolescent girls, a concept now widely understood and promoted within effective girls’ sport programmes.

According to Brady, safe spaces are:

  •  Free from emotional and physical threat
  •  Private and confidential
  •  Culturally acceptable to parents and caregivers yet free from parental pressures
  •  Conveniently located and familiar to programme participants
  •  Not subject to intrusions by males unassociated with the programme or unwanted authority figures

Without safe spaces, a girl’s growth is inhibited. If she is fearful of being in physical or emotional jeopardy, she will not take the risks necessary to experience the full benefits of a sport programme. If a girl is afraid she will be ostracized, she is unlikely to share her innermost questions and thoughts. If she is getting tackled brutally by older girls during practice, she will not want to play the game.1

We at Women Win think the creation of safe spaces is a critical mandate to building a sport programme that seeks to benefit girls. That’s why we gave it its own section. For more information on what is a safe space, how to create safe spaces and how to develop and implement child protection policies and procedures, see the Safe Spaces section of this guide.  

Assess your own organisation or programme on its safety for adolescent girls by going taking the Girls Sport Safety Self Assessment


1. Brady, Martha (2005). Creating Safe Spaces and Building Social Assets For Young Women In The Developing World: A New Role For Sport. Women’s Studies Quarterly 2005, vol.33, no.1&2, pp. 44-45.