Women and Girls Safe Spaces: A Toolkit for Women’s and Girls’ Empowerment in Humanitarian Settings
Women and Girls Safe Spaces (WGSS) are a structured place where women’s and adolescent girls’ physical and emotional safety is respected and where they are supported through processes of empowerment. WGSS have been a foundation for GBV programs in humanitarian settings for decades and one of ten program standards outlined in the Interagency Minimum Standards for Prevention and Response to GBV in Emergencies.
Women and Girls Safe Spaces: A Toolkit for Women’s and Girls’ Empowerment in Humanitarian Settings aims to authentically support women’s and girls’ sense of self and empowerment by providing a global blueprint for WGSS programming based on quality standards of practice outlining the feminist informed principles, approaches and strategies necessary to cultivate empowering safe spaces.
The toolkit seeks to ensure that frontline staff and supervisors regardless of experience or available technical support, equally have access to the knowledge, competencies and skills necessary to implement WGSS in humanitarian settings. The toolkit can be used for WGSS in humanitarian settings responding to natural disasters or conflicts, from the onset of an emergency throughout the relief and recovery phases, as well as, in development settings with large populations of internally displaced or refugee women and girls. The tools and guidance are applicable to WGSS implemented in camps, informal tented settlements, rural and urban environments, or border areas. Moreover, they equally support the range of programing approaches which include static or mobile delivery approaches, standalone or integrated programing approaches, and direct or in-partnership implementation approaches.
The intention of the toolkit is to provide all the tools needed to set up, implement and monitor a WGSS program within an accountable, women and girl-led process. It offers field staff a total of 38 tools and 9 databases with step-by-step instructions and guidance on how to use each. By no means does this resource aim at duplicating efforts or well-functioning tools. We encourage you to select the ones most relevant to you. The toolkit guides staff through a highly relational, fluid and constantly unfolding program approach covering the core concepts of WGSS programming, and 6 key phases of a WGSS project for which a sort description is provided below: While phases are presented in a sequential order, it is expected that each WGSS program will realistically begin to use the toolkit according to the current step in their programming (which might be well underway). Likewise, unexpected changes to the context might require moving back and forth between several steps. The toolkit is meant to support not dictate your program.
- WGSS Core Concepts: Defines the fundamental concept of empowerment as the overarching objective of WGSS programming and principle which should underpin programmatic and operational planning, decision-making, implementation and monitoring in an empowering, safe and inclusive manner. The chapter also establishes the 5 objectives all WGSS must work towards, the 5 guiding principles specific to WGSS and the women and girl led, context tailored and community informed strategies which establish the standards for design, implementation and monitoring.
- Assessment: Offers 7 tools and 2 databases which support the collection and analysis of assessment data to inform program design. Guidance explains why it is important to tailor the WGSS assessment to your context • strategies to ensure the assessment phase is women and girl-led, empowering, inclusive and safe • how to begin building community buy in for the WGSS with community members during the assessment phase.
- Start up: Offers 8 tools including a a complete logical framework for women’s and girls’ safety and empowerment. Guidance includes selecting Relevant Pathways and Indicators • Selecting Implementation Approaches • Enabling Access by Reducing Barriers • Selecting the WGSS Location • WGSS Physical Layout and Confidential Design Standards • Securing Buy-in for the WGSS in the Start Up Phase • Selection and Design of Feedback Channels
- Staffing: Offers 6 tools. Guidance outlines the Key WGSS positions including minimum staffing considerations • Roles and Responsibilities and how to adapt WGSS Roles and Responsibilities based on your Context • Key WGSS Recruitment Considerations prioritizing competencies • Staff and Self-care
- Capacity-building: Offers 10 tools and 1 database focused on supporting the capacity of staff, volunteers, partners and WGSS members. Guidance outlines the process for establishing a baseline and continuously assessing capacity • How to develop a Tailored Capacity-Building Based on Staff Roles and Responsibilities • On-the-job Capacity Development including Group and Peer Learning • Supportive Supervision at individual and team level
- Implementation: Offers 9 tools and 6 databases. Guidance focuses on the Key Strategies for WGSS Implementation • Creating Space for Empowerment – Connecting Activities, Objectives and Types of Empowerment • Promoting Opportunities for Women and Girls to Lead
- Empowering Exits: Offers 2 tools. Guidance establishes the Frame for WGSS Exit Strategies • Building the Exit Strategy into the Implementation of the WGSS Program •Common Programming Challenges to Exit Strategies •Duty of Staff Care • Transparently Communicating Exits to WGSS Stakeholders • Prioritizing Exit Strategies in Solidarity with Local Women’s Organizations.