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November 19, 2021

Equity in the Allocation of Public Recreation Spaces for Those Who Identify as Women or Girls

Equity in the Allocation of Public Recreation Spaces for Those Who Identify as Women or Girls

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Equitable access to recreation programs and facilities is fundamental to the wellbeing of all citizens, especially the most vulnerable members of our communities. Those who identify as women or girls, are underrepresented and underserved in all faculties of recreation and sport: participation, leadership, and decision-making. To harness the power of recreation and sport systems for all stakeholder groups, gender inequities regarding access to recreation programs and facilities must be addressed.

Equity for those who identify as women or girls refers to the fair allocation of resources, programs, and decision-making without any discrimination on the basis of gender. It requires addressing any imbalances in available benefits for those who identify as women or girls and ensuring that everyone has access to a variety of opportunities to achieve any social, mental, and physical benefits that result from participating and leading in recreation and sport. It does not necessarily mean making the same programs and facilities available to everyone. In order to achieve equity for those who identify as women or girls, a full range of activities and program choices should be provided to meet their needs. Therefore, some activities may be the same as those offered to other individuals, some may be slightly altered, and some may be altogether different.

Adopting an equity lens also requires an examination of organizational practices and policies that may hinder the participation of those who identify as women or girls. Service providers striving for equity should assess:

• Hiring and recruitment practices – ensure that those who identify as women or girls have leadership roles, are involved in decision-making, and serve as role models;
• Resource allocation – determine potential inequities in budget allocation across programs;
• Facility bookings – ensure that those who identify as women or girls have access to prime-time slots and prime facilities;
• Participation rates – evaluate current programs and services to identify potential barriers;
• Activity programming – assess the types of activities offered for those who identify as women or girls; and
• Promotional materials – ensure language is inclusive and that those who identify as women or girls are represented but not stereotyped in graphics.

Positive initiatives that seek to serve specific groups (e.g., indigenous women and girls, and transgender women and girls) are important because they take into account socialization and historical imbalances, which have subsequently marginalized sectors of the population.

The following document provides a template for municipalities and organizations looking to develop their own equitable access policy with respect to recreation facilities and programming. It is important to remember that equity in the allocation of recreation spaces for those who identify as women or girls cannot be achieved overnight, nor can it be achieved without collaboration and community engagement, particularly from those whom the Equity Policy aims to serve.

Municipalities and organizations should reach out to key stakeholders, and through collaborative meetings, identify and give voice to these under-serviced groups in need of additional facility time. In an effort to adjust current inequities in facility allocation, municipalities and organizations are encouraged to designate a period of time in which these underserviced groups are given priority.

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