Alliance for Girls’ “Radical Visions of Safety” uncovers how to create safety for girls

Illustration by Mensen shows women and girls at various stages of life

In partnership with Blue Shield of California Foundation, Alliance for Girls, the country's largest regional alliance of girl organizations serving more than 300,000, released its “Radical Visions of Safety for Girls by Girls” report earlier this year. As we look back on 2021, we hope the report’s solutions for community safety based on the input and lived experiences of girls and gender-expansive youth will guide caregivers in 2022.

“Imagine if safety was created from practices based on belonging and acceptance, rather than policies that perpetuate racist and sexist systems of oppression,” said Alliance for Girls Founder and Executive Director Emma Mayerson. “This report features the leading edge of violence prevention informed by the practical vision of Black girls and girls of color, gender-expansive youth, and the adults who champion them. These solutions will lead to our collective safety and freedom.” 

The report redefines safety and practices for parents, caregivers, service providers, and other caring adults on how to support safe and healthy relationships for girls and gender-expansive youth. 

“Rooted in abundance, equity and belonging,” explained Foundation Senior Program Officer Lucia Corral Peña, “we listened and what we heard is that girls’ needs are basic needs. They seek support, trust, and belonging. They find safety through connection — to family, community, and society.”

According to the report, practices and interventions that are effective in fostering safe spaces and healthy relationships include multigenerational, supportive connections provided by adults, parents, and caregivers. It outlines systemic barriers to the well-being of girls, including racism and stigma; community barriers, including unsupportive school administrators; and personal barriers, such as trauma and lack of parental support that prevent development of healthy relationships. Practices that help to shift strict gender norms include awareness, understanding boundaries and consent, social media, and digital literacy.

Key takeaways

  • Girls’ radical visions of safety are dynamic and evolving. The way girls characterize safety moves away from traditional assumptions and encompasses notions of physical, emotional, and spiritual ideas of comfort, nonjudgment, acceptance, and belonging.  
  • Boundaries are highlighted by girls as one of the most important conditions for a healthy relationship.  
  • Multigenerational practices are incredibly impactful in fostering safe spaces and healthy relationships for girls. Supportive connections with adults, parents, and caregivers contribute profoundly to their well-being.  
  • Practices that most contribute to the shift of strict gender norms include awareness, boundaries and consent, and digital literacy.  
  • Social media and digital literacy are important pathways for girls to connect. Fostering more understanding and training for both girls and adults can leverage these pathways’ potential for positive impact and mitigate their negative effects.  
  • The most profound barriers hampering girls and their champions from achieving safety and healthy relationships include systemic barriers like racism and stigma, operational barriers such as staff capacity, community barriers such as lack of support from school administrators, and personal barriers such as trauma and lack of parental support.  
  • Systems of support for girls are disconnected and lack continuity of care that addresses girls as whole people.  
  • Girls have a clear and powerful sense of what they want, how their experiences define their needs, and the best ways to help them thrive. The pathways to power for them are sovereignty, knowledge, and adults who acknowledge and include them. 

“Alliance for Girls elucidates a path forward toward a society where safety and sustainability are the norms and all girls — including Black, brown, Indigenous, gender-nonconforming, differently abled, etc. — have the resources and support they need to thrive,” Corral Peña said. “It highlights the transformative practices already being employed by women and girls in communities across the Bay Area. The report invites all of us to be champions for change.”

Read the full report here

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