Celebrating Safe Spaces for Youth
This 12th of August is UN International Youth Day – a day to celebrate the experiences and voices of young people. This year’s theme is “Safe Spaces for Youth” and is aiming to highlight the importance of “creating safe spaces for young people to come together, engage in activities related to their diverse needs and interests, participate in decision making processes and freely express themselves”.
With this in mind, it seems an opportune moment to highlight some of the amazing work that Alliance members do at home and abroad in support of this aim.
Creating safe spaces for youth is about making it possible for all young people, regardless of sexuality and gender. Project Trust is one such organisation working to make sure this becomes a reality.
Project Trust staff on the Isle of Coll. Credit: Project Trust
Working closely with young people from across the UK and further afield, Project Trust sees promoting diversity and inclusivity as a key priority, and this year they were proud to celebrate gaining an LGBTQ+ Bronze Charter Award from LGBT Youth Scotland. They have run a number of initiatives to raise awareness and celebrate LGBTQ+ identities and equality both at their headquarters on the Hebridean Isle of Coll, and across the UK and beyond.
One overseas volunteer organised a series of sessions on LGBT Pride month for classes at the school where she worked, while several other Volunteers produced in-depth studies on LGBTQ+ issues in the communities where they were based.
Claire Jennings, Project Trust’s LGBTQ+ Ambassador said: “We really believe an open and inclusive environment can help a young person to develop and reach their true potential. It is so important that everyone feels respected and supported, regardless of their sexuality and gender. And, for Project Trust specifically, it is about being able to talk about LGBTQ+ matters in an overseas context, in an open, friendly and supportive way.”
Project Trust is now looking to continue to enhance and develop the support they provide to all their volunteers, learning from their experiences to help us create a safe space for them to make the most of their year overseas.
Badariya Salou in Niger. Credit: Mercy Corps
131 million young and adolescent girls worldwide are out of school. Making sure that girls have access to safe places to learn new skills and freely express themselves is of vital importance. Mercy Corps makes this possible with safe space groups for girls across the world.
Badariya Salou, 13, participates in the girls’ safe space in her village, in Niger. There, Badariya and other teenage girls learn about life skills (respectful behaviour, hygiene, basic financial management), healthy choices (nutrition, the risks of early childbirth), and their rights (education, marrying at a later age) from mentors — older teenage/young women.
Twice a week, the groups meet in a private area where it is safe to learn and share their ideas and feelings — especially valuable to Badariya, whose father has not allowed her to go to school. Instead, she spends her days on household chores and work: fetching water, cleaning the house, pounding grain, helping her mother make and sell corn pancakes to bring some money back to the family. The group is the one place where she can imagine a better life and learn how she can make the changes she wants for herself.
Credit: Mary's Meals
Through offering school meals in places like the Bourj el-Barajneh refugee settlement on the outskirts of Beirut in Lebanon, Mary’s Meals help create safe spaces for young people like Samer from Syria.
He and his family fled their home to escape the brutal civil war that is tearing their country apart. He now lives with his parents and younger siblings in the Bourj el-Barajneh refugee settlement on the outskirts of Beirut.
More than a million desperate Syrians have flocked to neighbouring Lebanon in search of safety since fighting broke out in 2011. It is one of the largest concentrations of refugees anywhere in the world and the tiny country’s infrastructure is struggling to cope.
The informal education centre established for children living in the refugee settlement offers a safe space where Samer and his classmates can meet friends, make the most of their childhood and gain a precious education, which could one day be their ladder out of poverty and hardship.
“I like to play at school and at the same time I learn,” Samer says. “I like to learn new things. My favourite subject is Arabic.”
The majority of Syrian refugees in Lebanon live in poverty, often in terrible conditions, and many families struggle to find enough to eat.
For Samer and his classmates, the healthy sandwich wrap and a piece of fresh fruit provided by Mary’s Meals every school day is a lifeline. The nutritious meal fills their tummies with the vitamins and minerals growing children need, helping them to focus on their studies and make the most of their education.
2018 is also the Year Young People in Scotland. In recognition of this, our colleagues over at the Scotland Malawi Partnership held their Youth Congress earlier this year.
The Youth Congress was a lively, innovative and interactive day themed around "Partnership in Action: My Views, My Voice". It provided a safe space for young people from Malawi and Scotland to come together to explore their own experiences and links. Through workshops, activities and discussions, young people didn’t just learn more about Malawi and share inspiring stories about their links, but were also supported to understand and critically reflect on the media.
Participants discussed various themes around social media use, ‘fake news’, media bias and youth voice. Every young person present had the chance to “quiz the experts”, to make up their mind. Through the day the young people also generated and shared their own video content – telling their own Scotland-Malawi story.
These are just a few examples of our members and colleagues working to create safe spaces for youth. Many other of our members do amazing work across the world with young people too. Explore all our members and their work here.
The Alliance annual conference next month will focus on the role of young people in development, both in Scotland and across the world. We have also launched a photo competition where we’ve asked members to submit pictures illustrating sustainable development through the eyes of young people. The top entries will be displayed at the conference in September. Don’t miss out on your chance to be involved!
This article was written and edited by Alliance staff in collaboration with all the organisations mentioned.