02 Feb 2021
What is a safer space?
A safer space is a supportive, non-threatening environment that encourages open-mindedness, respect and a willingness to learn from others, as well as physical safety and mental wellbeing.
It is inclusive and responds to the needs of people who face any type of discrimination including because of their race, disability, gender, gender identity, heritage, nationality, neurodiversity, sexuality, class, political affiliation, religion or belief and migration status.
Safer spaces enable all group members and event participants to fully engage, build trust, and give their best to the work of campaigning. They are vital to ensuring that all voices are heard equally within our movement.
Safer spaces guidelines
Making your group and its activities a safer space can be done by ensuring the following guidelines are followed. It’s a good idea to remind people of these by incorporating them in some ground rules before meetings or event. You should also consider appointing a safeguarding lead for the group and at events who will ensure these ground rules are adhered to.
- Respect other people’s physical and emotional boundaries. Do not push anyone to answer questions they don’t want to answer, and do not share anyone’s personal stories outside of this space.
- Respect other people’s identities. For example, make sure everyone is aware of the right pronouns to use.
- Do not assume knowledge about others, including regarding their background, gender identity, sexual preference, race, disability, nationality, class, political affiliation, religion, beliefs etc. Avoid making generalising statements about a group of people.
- Remember that actions and words may have unintended effects and that other people’s feelings are valid, regardless of intentions. Read this handy guide to learn more about microagressions.
- Look after yourself by letting someone know if something they have said or done has crossed a boundary or physically leaving a space if you don’t feel safe or just need a minute to yourself.
- Make sure everyone has a chance to express their opinions and be heard. Do not raise your voice or interrupt someone who is speaking and be aware of how much you are contributing to leave space for others. Be especially aware of your own relative power and privilege in this space and find out how facilitators can help to enforce this.
- Remember and respect the opinions and voices of people who are not in this physical space, but who form part of our communities, whether locally or globally. Consider especially the voices of those who are most affected by the issues discussed.
- Connect to one another as people, understand and respect others’ challenges, experiences and motivations to work collaboratively for change that encompasses all of those experiences and equates to a more just future for everyone.
- Use clear and simple language and avoid any jargon or inside jokes which could exclude certain people.
- Give a warning before you speak about something that might upset or trigger someone. This applies to topics like sexual violence, eating disorders, self-harm, etc. First, make it clear that you are giving a trigger warning, then mention what themes you will be addressing, and finally give enough time for people to leave the space if they need to.
- Any form of bullying or harassment will not be tolerated and could lead to sanctions including the exclusion from the event or group.
For online spaces, the above also applies. Make sure to also:
- Have a quick check before turning on your camera whether there might be anything on display that could be offensive or disrupt the meeting. There are options to change or blur your background if you would prefer to do this.
- Check out our online facilitation guide, which includes tips on safety and privacy.
Make it clear that if anyone persistently or seriously breaks the ground rules, organisers or the safeguarding lead will take steps to ask them to leave the meeting, event or group.