What do young women need to exercise freely and safely outdoors? That was the key question of Girls Play The City, a new chapter to the Brussels urban project Girls Make The City. This time we were settling down in the West Park, in Molenbeek. We worked together with teenage girls from the neighbourhood, basketball players, gymnasts and less sports-minded girls to create a feminist sports and play zone.
According to Kind en Maatschappij major outdoor play survey (2019), far fewer girls (37%) play outside than boys (63%). Among young children, there is still almost a balance, but in the 9-11 age group, only 27% of children playing outdoors are girls. This imbalance is even more pronounced in sports zones: here, only 15% of all children playing outdoors are girls. It is not that girls do not like playing football or basketball, they just do not feel welcome in a place dominated by others – mostly boys – and where competition is central.
This trend also continues as girls get older. Those who go cycling or jogging as women may think twice about the route and time of day than a man, and women who dance, practice yoga, skate or kick a ball in the park or a square know they will be accosted, stared at or sometimes harassed.
Sport and play in public spaces for everyone.
With Girls Play The City, ZIJkant and Wetopia again joined forces, this time with a new set of local partners (Molenbeek Rebels Basketball, Toestand, Periferia Aisbl, ATLEMO) and with the support of the Molenbeek municipality and the Brussels Capital Region. The City is our Playground provided the visual of our project and will execute one of the concepts with the girls. .
This project is the follow-up to Girls Make The City, which took place last year in the Marolles. In the late summer of 2022, we united 25 young women from the social housing blocks, skaters, students from Saint Jan Berchmans College at the Ursulines skate park. Together they thought about how to make their neighborhood more pleasant, for them, but also for their friends, parents, neighbors, siblings.
Girls Play The City also wants to co-create gender-sensitive interventions in Brussels with girls from very different backgrounds who share a space and a need: to feel safe, free and happy while playing sports and moving in public spaces.
Co-creation in the West Park
We started a co-creation process, guided by regenerative design practitioner Joke Quintens (Wetopia) and youth worker Fallah Nabil (Molenbeek Rebels). We united about 20 young people from very different worlds (basketball players, gymnasts and local residents) who share a place: the Molenbeek West Park. This fallow land is temporarily occupied by Toestand vzw and will be transformed into a park by Bruxelles Environnement in a few years. An excellent opportunity to do a gender screening, because now mainly boys and men are looking for a place to hang out in this densely populated transit neighborhood without much green space or conviviality.
During four workshops, the participants explored what energizes their neighborhood, what is pleasant and what could be better, in order to then map out the neighborhood’s potential, research who can take on which role and, finally, arrive at concrete proposals and interventions.
From dream to action
We will compile their ideas and proposals in a toolkit for the city, the region and the managers of the future park. Meanwhile – together with young people and neighborhood organizations – we seek to realise some of their dreams.
Check out our wetopia partners here:
Also read the article that appeared online in The Parliament HERE!
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