EmPower Play Toolkit
The EmPower Play Toolkit is a free, open source tool organizations can use to engage adolescent girls in topics around gender-based violence in their communities. This toolkit provides simple, play-based and youth-oriented ways for adolescent girls to explore and discuss gender equality, violence and aggression and what their roles are in changing attitudes and behaviors around violence against women in their communities. Additionally, the toolkit uses simple self-defense skills, either taught deliberately through targeted activities and sessions, or taught indirectly through playing sport, to help girls gain confidence in themselves and develop critical skills.
The EmPower Play Toolkit helps organizations empower girls to build and develop and a foundation of practical skills and knowledge to address violence and aggression, with a focus on verbal and psychological skills. This program can be run as a stand-alone, or in conjunction with a sport or martial arts program. It is not a full force self-defense or martial arts curriculum in itself, both of which require certified trainers with years of experience. However, this toolkit can be a pathway that leads adolescent girls toward a more in-depth and comprehensive sport experience, which could include self-defense, martial arts and/or team sports.
Women Win and our partners know that sport can be an essential part of girls' experience in addressing GBV
Girls' learning self-defense and gender-based violence education through karate program at NUK in Bangladesh
The EmPower Play Toolkit has 5 main objectives:
- Provide a safe space for adolescent girls to speak about and explore sensitive topics and develop safe and supportive relationships
- Introduce adolescent girls to concepts related to gender, gender equality and what it means to be a girl in their communities
- Help adolescent girls identity forms of violence in their lives and in their communities
- Develop important life skills that will help adolescent girls stand up to and speak out against violence and aggression in their community
- Guide adolescent girls in taking action against violence and advocating for their right to live in a world free of violence
first section (Prepare) helps organizations start an internal conversation around what skills girls need to effectively stand up against types of violence and aggression and what the organization might need in terms of capacity and resources to provide a space for girls to learn those skills.
second section (Practice) gives organizations 14 sessions that they can conduct with adolescent girls and young women in their communities. These sessions range from confidence building and communication and negotiation skills, to practical verbal and psychological techniques to defend oneself against violence and aggression. This section guides and supports facilitators with tips, best practices, additional resources and step-by-step instructions for the delivery of each session.
third section (Reflect and Play) allows organizations to reflect on their experience in implementing the curriculum and explore ways to develop pathways for girls to engage in sport, whether it be traditional team sports, further self-defense training or martial arts.
Explain your idea in one sentence.
A free, open-source toolkit to help organizations teach girls self-defense techniques, risk mitigation tactics, negotiation skills and build self-confidence and awareness – it’s a tool for practical and social empowerment of girls to help them address violence.
What is the need you are trying to solve?
Adolescent girls are at a unique risk for experiencing gender-based violence in their communities, due to a variety of factors, including unequal gender power relations and attitudes about, and claims on, girls’ bodies and sexuality. Girls are not the problem. The blame is always on perpetrators and cultures that perpetuate violence.
Regardless, girls can be empowered to address this violence and learn how to negotiate around it to whatever extent is possible. They are not powerless victims, but rather have the agency to be active participants in their own safety. In order to do this, girls need safe space to talk about their experiences and explore the risks. They need social support, caring adults and explicit guidance to and build awareness, negotiation skills and confidence to address this violence. Adolescent girls need more opportunities to talk openly and explicitly about violence and build skills to negotiate it.
Who will benefit from this idea and how would you monitor its success?
Ultimately, the program will have an impact on three levels:
1. Individual (the adolescent girl participants in the program)
2. Peers and Family (family members and male/female peers of participants)
3. Community (the community in which the participants live)
The activities in this curriculum have been designed and developed for girls between the ages of 12 and 18. More importantly, the curriculum is for girls and young women going through a transformative period in their lives during which they are beginning to develop their own ideas about themselves, their own values and beliefs about gender norms, roles and expectations and are starting to form relationships with those around them.
Who would be best equipped to implement this idea in the real world? You? Your organisation? Another organisation or entity?
This toolkit is for organizations interested in using sport and play as a tool to address violence against girls and women in their community. Typically, these are women’s rights, health, development and/or sport organizations.
This curriculum should be used with girl only groups and should be adapted by organizations to fit their local context, so that the information and approach is as relevant as possible for their particular target audience. The curriculum should be delivered in safe girl only spaces by female facilitators who are trained on facilitating sensitive issues around gender-based violence and are either trained in dealing with gender-based violence or are supported by a gender-based violence counselor at each session.
Due to the sensitive nature of the sessions and topics discussed, organizations should also have strong referral processes and pathways in place for girls who have experienced violence or need additional counseling or help. Partnerships with local gender-based violence centers or counseling programs are highly encouraged.
Where should this idea be implemented?
The EmPower Play program can be implemented anywhere girls are at risk of violence – which basically equates to anywhere on this planet. Possible pilot partners are Youth Empowerment Foundation (Lagos, Nigeria), Naz Foundation (Delhi, India), Nari Uddug Kendra (Dhaka, Bangladesh), and Sadili Oval (Nairobi, Kenya).
How might you prototype this idea and test some of the assumptions behind it?
Every tool we build at Women Win goes through a product development cycle that is iterative, collaborative and open. The EmPower Play toolkit was born out of a request from our women’s rights partners to build a play-based tool to address these issues with girls. For two years, we have been collecting best practice, talking to partners in Latin America, Asia and Africa about how they would want this to work. We are now past the Discover and Ideation phases, and are ready with a prototype toolkit.
In 2014, we would like to pilot the concept with 2-3 partners in different regions of the world. Specifically, our partners who work regularly with girls and have experimented with martial arts/self defense for addressing GBV with them.
Following the pilot, we will gather impact data and host a convening with pilot partners to share experience and help evolve the tool.
What might a day in the life of a community member interacting with your idea look like?
Most of Women Win’s program partner engage parents directly, as they are often the biggest barrier or accelerator to girls’ participation in a sport and empowerment program. We often hear that girls’ themselves go home from their sport + life skills sessions and share what they learned with their mothers – who have often not been taught about their rights and/or ever been given an opportunity to speak openly about violence. A typical day of a mother interacting with this could be that her daughter comes home. While preparing dinner, her daughter tells her about an activity she did today at her program. It was called “What’s Going On Around Me” and taught them about observing and listening to their gut feelings – their “intuition.” The daughter and mom talk about how this applies to their walk to the market or that one time that one of them didn’t listen to their intuition. The daughter teaches her mom the chant she learned that they do every session at the end – they hum it and continue chopping vegetables.