Women and girls have a fundamental right to safety. This safety is a precursor to development and growth, in order for girls and women to be able to build more prosperous lives for themselves, their families, their communities and their country. This week’s Girls’ Leadership Forum post features women from Washington, DC, Kenya, and Haiti sharing what makes them safe or vulnerable at home.

Amy Chege, Kenya

Katy Fofana, Senegal

Katy is 15 and from the Cape Verde Islands. She is currently living in Senegal, but has spent much of her life moving back and forth between Senegal and South Africa.

I don’t have a set safe place. I usually feel safe in places where I am either alone or in the company of one or two people who are really close to me, such as my grandmother or my aunts. In such a safe place, we could be free to either relax and be calm together and undisturbed, or to let loose and have fun without worrying about being constantly politically correct. And, more importantly, to have no one around to judge us. Not being judged in a safe place is really important to me, because in my community, the image you portray and the things you accomplish are what make you deserving of respect, which is why I’m never able to act as instinctively as I would if I were alone or surrounded by tolerant people, preferably women. And, frankly, keeping up appearances is really tiring. I believe that I would be more likely to let myself go around girls my own age than around women, because they’re the ones who spread rumors. One false move could set many women off. Words get bent, exaggerated and circulated so fast that I wouldn’t be able to alert my family members of the false truths.

I don’t think I could relax around either boys my age or men. Senegal is a country where about 95 percent of the population is Muslim. In Islam, women are seen as an inferior to men. Women and girls are seen as objects used to clean the houses, take care of children and pleasure their husbands. In addition, it is common here for men to have more than four wives, which means they’re always looking for younger, “better” versions of their wives. I recently turned 16, and I am almost used to older men trying to flirt with me and to take me out. I perceive them as sexual predators who feel entitled to my body. Therefore, I am unfortunately unable to feel safe around men.

Khadija Iman, Kenya

Maisie Joy A, Kenya

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