Parks and green spaces are among the greatest assets in any community. They can be a focal point for organised events that bring many people together at once, or an area where people can walk their dogs or bring their children to play. Most people would say that parks ought to be for everyone.
In July 2021, we first spoke with Make Space for Girls, a charity set up to campaign to make parks and public spaces more welcoming to teenage girls. They told us there was little research to understand if parks were truly inclusive spaces, and somewhere teenage girls felt they could visit and be active. According to the most recent Sport England Children and Young People Active Lives Survey girls enjoy sport and exercise far less than boys. This means it is therefore vital to understand what more can be done to increase activity levels among girls.
We commissioned Women in Sport as the external research partner and have worked with them over the last ten months to understand the use of three parks across South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire among teenage girls. This research has found that twice as many girls as boys feel unsafe exercising in their local park with many being worried about harassment and anti-social behaviour.
This report details the research that Women in Sport carried out in the three areas with teenage girls and boys and the data reflects the young people in those areas and their views. It also shares the insight and recommendations that they have pulled from the research. We would like to thank them for their time in doing this work.
Alongside Women in Sport and Make Space for Girls, we are calling for park providers to give teenage girls a voice and a choice by engaging them in shaping the parks and communities they live in. Parks need to be designed better; to create exciting, innovative and safe spaces to support more teenage girls to be active; to enable a life-long love of exercising outdoors and empower them to lead happy, healthy lives.
We’d like to thank the girls, community groups, schools and students who participated in this research and all the organisations who contributed to this project through the immersion and innovation workshops. We would also like to thank Kirklees Council, Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council and Sheffield City Council for their support with this research and hope that the findings are useful in the future development they are seeking to do in the local parks, which we will support in any way we can.
We are excited to see how this research is used to shape parks of the future because if we can make them more inclusive for teenage girls, we can make them more inclusive for everyone. Parks can play a greater role in improving the physical and mental health of the nation as they can inspire and encourage girls to be more active and experience the joy and freedom of being outdoors.