This Girls Group Mentoring Toolkit provides the tools, resources and support to create, implement, deliver and evaluate a quality group mentoring program for girls, ages 9-13, in your community. The Toolkit is intended to be used in a range of communities, and can be adapted to the unique values, needs, strengths and challenges that each community encompasses.
Mentees will learn and grow best in a safe space—a place where they feel physically and emotionally safe. This will depend on the physical environment where the mentoring takes place, as well as the leadership and skills of the staff and mentors in addressing difficult issues and ensuring that inclusivity and respect are practiced at all times. Participants need to feel that they can be open and honest with their feelings and opinions. There are many considerations that must be addressed in creating a safe space for girls. These include:
One strategy to create a safe space is to invite the girls to participate in creating group guidelines or rules. This is something you can review and modify regularly as new topics and issues come up.
Some examples of topics to cover in your guidelines include:
When partnering with other organizations/schools or hosting the meetings off-site, creating and maintaining a safe space can be more difficult to manage and ensure. It is important to establish policies with partners to ensure your requirements are met. For example, rules and regulations of a school or organization should align with your program vision.
“Many mentees are extremely sensitive about talking in front of others, so programs should train mentors to never force a young person to share or participate.”
- (Sherk 2006)
Some of the suggestions in the above section can help when supporting girls to claim the space such as encouraging girls to put up decorations each session or moving the chairs into a circle. You should reflect in advance on how you will facilitate a ‘safe space’ when travelling into the community. Sometimes you won’t have control over the physical space but you will always have some level of control over the group. Reminding girls that the rules around personal safety and inclusion still apply is a first step. You should also establish where to go and what to do if they get lost or feel unsafe. A buddy system is also helpful with this.
Creating a safe space can be an ongoing process. Safe space has to constantly be maintained and the reality is that sometimes we can only create safer spaces. It is important that groups are gentle but also vigilant with constantly checking in. For more information on what to do when it is difficult to create safe space, see the Managing the Group Dynamic section.