Streets for Girls: creating safe and inclusive places

A blog from Senior Project Manager, Sam Hayes.

Supported/hosted by Common Good in their first ever event in Yorkshire, at the amazing WOWbarn in Leeds.

The first thing that was great about this event was the venue. The WOW barn is an amazing wooden structure raised (literally) by 300 women, girls and non-binary people over a 24 hour period. The barn, it’s aims, and especially the life-sized cut outs of all the barn raisers really helped to set the scene.

This evening was about lived experiences and creating safe and inclusive streets for women and girls. The range of interesting speakers included women working across a range of areas, including landscape architecture, planning, urban design, academia and research, local government and civil servants, and non-profits. We heard about how important keeping the notion of inclusive alongside safe is when thinking about designing spaces for women and girls as all too often safety becomes the focus – leaving women’s needs reduced to a series of public safety measures. We also heard about how green spaces and skate parks can be designed to provide better comfort for young girls by providing different zones, spaces to relax, or spaces specifically for beginners to improve, particularly for areas like skate parks. We also heard about how the local council is championing action to tackle health inequalities and how all communities need to be part of decision making to improve our public spaces and make sure they work for everyone in our communities. And lots more…

Having listened more than writing, my own note taking from the evening is quite patchy, but I can offer these reflections.

Intersectional approaches feel crucial. Women, girls, and non-binary people aren’t a homogenous group. They may also be people of colour, or LGBTQI+ and so really thinking about the complexity and intersectional nature of people’s lived experiences is needed. Something we often reflect on at PLACED and trying to ensure we reach out to a diverse range of people from the communities we work in is also high on our agenda.

Speaking with young people is vital. While there I got chatting to another guest and learned about a digital experience created alongside the physical WOW Barn. One way or another is a resource created with secondary school pupils to explore and share their experiences as young women. You can experience it here – One Way or Another ( Youth voice and working with young people is something we advocate in every project we do at PLACED, and this resource is a great way to glimpse and learn from other’s lived experiences. We’ll certainly be sharing it with people we work with.

The WOW Barn is part of the Leeds 2023 Year of Culture, I encourage you to check it out Home – LEEDS 2023.

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