Safe or Unsafe? Safe-scaping in Nepal


Su is Plan International USA's Because I am a Girl Manager

Things aren’t always what they seem... that’s what we’re always told, right? Well, it’s true.

In taking a look around a rural community in a developing country, what you see is very different than what she sees. Where you see a beautiful river, she sees the place where she bathes and is harassed by boys and men in her village. Where you see a breathtaking temple, she sees a place from which her sister was taken away and trafficked. Where you see a school, she sees a place where her teachers sexually abuse her.

When we are planning our activities within a community to build assets for girls, it’s extremely important to take into consideration where a girl feels safe in her community. Because, as I mentioned in an earlier post, if you build a project in a place where she doesn’t feel safe, she won’t come – not to mention that we might be putting her at risk.

So, another exercise we did with the girls during our Girl Focus workshop in Nepal was safe-scaping. We have them draw their communities the way they see it – where is their school, their place of worship, the road they have to take to get to school, their house, the playing grounds, etc. Afterwards, we ask them to place a '+' where they feel safe and a '-' where they do not feel safe.

Each girl presented her community map, and I was stunned to see a few maps in which the girls had a '-' next to everything on her map - there was not a single place in their community where they felt safe. This fact is not just scary, but it’s unacceptable.

So, as we build our projects, it is absolutely necessary for us to work directly with the girls to ensure that we are implementing our projects in safe locations and that we are creating more safe spaces for them to engage with other girls in their community.