I knew this place was different from the first time I started coming here. The second time, someone remembered my name. They asked me about my mother as she had been sick. I not only felt welcome, but that I belonged. Now I am happy to make others welcome here.

 Ify, Young Person

Sometimes we are so desperate to put on an activity for women and girls that we settle for the first – or only – space we can find. Space matters. Whether your activity is outside, under a tree, or in a dedicated building, here are some of the things we have learnt that make activities work better:

  1. Make them feel welcome. The person who welcomes them, and shows them where to go, and what to do, may determine whether they stay or go. This role is crucial. How do you make people welcome when they first join your activities?
  2. Make sure there is space for them to socialise. This may be the only time she has in her busy timetable to spend time with other women, without being called upon to help other family members. Socialising isn’t a waste of time! It is very valuable! Such moments shared with – and making –  friends are the times we exchange ideas, skills and dreams. What gesture signals that you are welcome to stay and socialise in your culture? It may be offering tea (which costs you little, or you could charge a little) or something else. If a woman or girl knows that her friends will be waiting for her, she is more likely to make the effort to attend your workshops. 
  3. It’s all about who we know. Who we know can be crucial in understanding how to get a better job, or collaborating in other ways. Good social networks and trusting relationships are great resources for young women. They allow women to access each others’ skills and to learn about opportunities – whether jobs or otherwise – to further their personal and professional goals. 
  4. Make sure it is clean. Cleanliness is respect for others. It shows that they are valuable and welcome. Poor women and girls are often already ashamed of their situations and may feel that they are failures, or ‘less’ than others. Providing them with a dirty environment silently tells them that we believe this is true.

Reflection Questions

  1. Do you agree with these recommendations? How do you juggle costs with ensuring you have an empowering space?
  2. Have you seen the impact of a ‘good’ space on the way you or others feel valued or able to learn?
  3. What are the minimum requirements for a ‘good’ space for youth activities?

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