Safe Spaces

Read this in:

Gender-based violence is a breach of girls’ safety. In order to effectively address GBV in your sport programme, participants and their families must trust that all activities 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 sports 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 unaffiliated 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 feel comfortable to learn and grow in her process regarding GBV. 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. 55

What is a Safe Space

A safe space is an environment where girls feel physically and emotionally secure. It is a place where they are protected from bodily harm, including sexual abuse and preventable sport injuries. In a safe space, girls feel free to openly express themselves in a confidential environment, without fear of judgment or intimidation. These spaces and the sports are non-threatening and non-competitive. This allows every participant to engage with the programme equally. They are comfortable sharing their deepest concerns and asking sensitive questions. Ultimately, the definition of safe space depends on how girls feel within that space; therefore, the programme space needs to be consistently evaluated and adjusted by programme leaders and girls.


55 . 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.