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Why we all need to champion safe spaces

no picture Co-founder of the Walk a Campus in my Shoes poster exhibit
Matthew Tikhonovsky
Member since June 13, 2018
  • 4 Posts
  • Age 18

Permission given to author to use.

Permission given to author to use.

Olivia Andrews knows what it’s like to be stereotyped for the color of her skin daily. As a 17-year-old Indian teenager living in the U.S., who excels academically, she is often labeled as quiet, studious, reserved, and unwilling to have fun.
But Olivia feels she is anything but. She always brings an added flare of excitement and creativity to whatever projects she works on and enjoys in her free time letting loose with her friends.
But she hasn’t always been like this. While Olivia used to struggle with other’s assumptions about her, without even getting to know her, she has learned to grapple with the judgments by relying on her Safe Space. “Safe spaces, like my home and school, allow me to take a breath and analyze what happens during the day,” she said in an interview. “They allow me to dream and to realize success while reinventing myself and allowing those around me to see my full potential.”
And that is why Olivia was overjoyed to learn that Safe Spaces for Youth is this year’s theme for International Youth Day, a day devoted to recognizing the accomplishments and achievements of youth globally, while also acknowledging and addressing the challenges and struggles they face.
Safe Spaces play a critical role for youth all around the world, providing a judgment free environment for youth to be youth, engage with their peers, have thoughtful dialogue, seek guidance or support, and have fun!
Safe Spaces come in many different forms, designed to meet the diverse needs of the surrounding community. Museums allow youth to trace the founding of their country or explore a scientific discovery. Civic centers provide an opportunity for youth to engage on social issues. Parks and public spaces enable youth to be interact with other youth in their community. And, in the digital age, online forums and social media platforms connect youth with youth on the other side of the country, region, or even world.
In countries where marginalization is rampant, Safe Spaces are absolutely vital for the livelihood and development of youth. In Lebanon, a UNICEF-funded school reaches over 200 Syrian refugee youth by providing them with a safe classroom to learn the basics of English and Arabic. And in South Sudan, a soccer field for youth who have been affected by violence allows youth to play soccer with their friends in a safe, secure environment. These two examples only scrape the surface of how Safe Spaces around the world allow vulnerable youth of all ages to be kids again.
And for that, Olivia Andrews is eternally grateful for the confidence and courage Safe Spaces have provided her with.

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