This review presents a broad overview of the most prominent and well-evidenced programmes providing safe spaces for girls in six selected countries.
The criteria for defining a ‘safe space’ followed the Population Council’s guidance, and the following programmes all contain these elements:
- A physical space where adolescent girls (10-19 years old) meet regularly
- An older or peer mentor
- Life skills and/or vocational skills training along with socialisation and recreation
The six selected countries showed a large variety in the scope of programmes provided, from BRAC in Bangladesh reaching half a million girls, to small CBOs in Uganda reaching 450 girls in nearby villages. The variety in scope indicates that these programmes can be effectively implemented at different scales. The location of programmes was also varied, with an approximately equal mix of meetings taking place in schools, community centres, public spaces and homes.
The issues taught in the life skills components were largely 1) sexual and reproductive health, 2) financial literacy or livelihoods training, and 3) social issues. The target groups were again varied and no clear trend emerged. Small programmes often targeted broadly all girls of the right age range in the area, and many only described their beneficiaries as ‘vulnerable’. Programmes were mostly run in rural areas or urban slums, so most girls were deemed poor, vulnerable, at risk of early marriage or pregnancy and with low levels of empowerment. The age range of girls was also quite varied, but there is a slight weighting towards earlier adolescence, as many programmes mainly worked with girls aged 10-16 years.