International Youth Day: How the Queen’s Young Leaders are creating safe spaces for youth

International Youth Day celebrates the young women and men’s role in creating positive change. The theme this year is #SafeSpaces4Youth – focusing on how safe spaces ensure the dignity and safety of youth. We’ve caught up with three of our Queen’s Young Leaders to hear about how they are creating safe spaces for those who need them most. 

Hauwa Ojeifo from Nigeria is dedicated to overcoming the stigma around mental health in her community. She runs a women’s support group called She Writes Woman, which focuses on mental health support and outreach among some of the most vulnerable people in the community. Hauwa explains why the use of safe spaces is crucial for her work:

“Safe spaces are important in a world where youths - despite being a majority - are largely marginalised from decisions regarding themselves and their futures. By creating safe spaces, young people are empowered to find their voices, embrace their uniqueness, tell their stories with courage, and chart a future that includes us all, in all our diversity. Safe spaces amplify untold stories and condemned perspectives. Safe spaces save lives, foster understanding, teach empathy, change narratives and build trust.”

Through She Writes Woman, she has created ‘Safe Place’, a monthly women-only mental health support group:

“Safe Place is a mix of professionals, advocates, sufferers, carers, survivors and enthusiasts seeking answers, release, honesty and help in their mental health journey. Safe Place seeks to use the power of a support system to help reduce the mental health recovery period and the burden of mental illness on any one individual in the society.”

Gift Chansa from Zambia uses his skills as a circus performer to transform the lives of disadvantaged young people in his community. Gift co-founded Circus Zambia which provides participants in the township of Chibolya with circus, academic and life skills. Gift explains:

“Circus Zambia has set up a hub with the theatre, library, media lab, dormitories and a circus company. We have a holistic approach using the body, mind and soul. The soul programme is about helping young people develop life and social skills, looking at issues that are affecting the community, such as HIV, alcohol and drug abuse. We also focus on fostering social inclusion and diminishing stereotypes through exposure, interaction and creative expression. In the body programme we focus on making sure you keep your body physically fit while building your self-confidence. Circus Zambia wants to enable young people to expand their knowledge therefore we have created the mind programme which allows young people to access education, have educational and financial support and become the leaders of today.”

Gift adds how Circus Zambia is creating a safe space for young people in his community:

“Circus Zambia’s motto is ‘a place to run, jump, fly and land safely’. It’s important to have safe spaces because it helps young people to develop; they can discover, experiment and are dared to dream. Even when your daily surroundings are not very supporting, a place like Circus Zambia can inspire and motivate you to go further and dream bigger.”

Tian Sern Oon from Singapore is using technology to help people access mental health support. Tian is the founder of Acceset which is an online platform for people to discuss mental health issues and seek help anonymously. Tian explains why creating these safe spaces is important for young people:

“Safe spaces help youths who may have had hurtful experiences to talk about them and explore new ways to work around their problems. It is particularly important not to leave those who are suffering alone as this sometimes amplifies their problems. Through creating safe spaces, we allow people's perspectives to broaden and we can repurpose these problems faced by young people to empathise and help others.”

Tian explains how his organisation, Acceset, is creating a safe technological space for young people in his community:

“My company has built a technology product for peers to write anonymous letters and get letter replies in a private conversation. We are introducing our technology in student conferences which allows the students to ask their questions anonymously. Not all questions can be answered but having a safe space for one to formulate their thoughts and raise them is a helpful step.”

Read more about The Queen’s Young Leaders Programme and the life-changing work of the Queen’s Young Leaders here:  https://queensyoungleaders.com/

#SafeSpaces4Youth #YouthDay