Empowering Women Through Sport
“A girl should be two things: who and what she wants to be.”
— Coco Chanel
In a world where women are still forced to fight for equality and recognition, where power and independence are still elusive for many girls around the globe, sport has become a beacon of hope and a vehicle for change.
The Sport at the Service of Humanity movement is built upon the belief that through the key values of faith and sport – Inspiration, Inclusion, Involvement – we can make a real difference in the world, including girls and women living in situations where they are undervalued, controlled and marginalized.
This month we celebrated International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month – and shone a light on some of the incredible work being done through sports organizations around the globe to advance opportunity and equality for girls and women.
International Women’s Day: #ChooseToChallenge
On March 8th, International Women’s Day (IWD) marked a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marked a call-to-action for accelerating women’s equality in all areas, including sport.
This year’s IWD theme was #ChooseToChallenge, a reminder that complacency is a choice, just as the decision to challenge the status quo and fight for women’s rights is a choice.
A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions – all day, every day. We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world. From challenge comes change, so let’s all choose to challenge.
Since the launch of IWD in 1911, tangible progress has been made towards achieving equality for women in sport, especially in the key areas of pay, sponsorship and visibility. Large companies are being challenged and in response we are seeing an increase in sponsorships for women’s sports with major brands such as Adidas, Nike and Budweiser sponsoring sporting events such as the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France. This increase in sponsorships directly correlates with increased TV viewing audience and attendance levels at women’s sporting events.
This increased interest in women’s sports at a professional level, will have a far-reaching impact on the support that women’s sports receive within schools and communities, and will do much to foster the growth and confidence of girls around the globe.
GirlsGotThis: Harnessing the Power of Play to Unleash the Potential of Girls
In 2018, FundLife International, a youth-led, grassroots not-for-profit organisation based in Tacloban, Philippines, started its Girls Community League, promoting football and futsal among girls in the Philippines. Later, in 2019 they launched GirlsGotThis to provide a safe space where girls can gain confidence: where it is okay to fail and to try again, and where children can gain confidence in their own potential.
Through the power of play and innovative education, GirlsGotThis seeks to help the world’s most vulnerable girls stay in school, receive a quality education and create dignified employment opportunities for themselves and their communities.
In a country where 100,000 girls aged 12-17 who are victims of child sex trafficking and/or sexual abuse every year, providing a safe space where girls can learn and grow is of the utmost importance.
Since their launch, the methodology used by GirlsGotThis to build play-based interventions to protect girls has been recognized for its effective approach, winning awards for both social impact and educational innovation through sports.
Over the past year, GirlsGotThis has expanded its focus to help support and empower girls and women most impacted by the pandemic. In the Philippines, girls are twice as likely to drop out of school due to the negative impacts of the pandemic; with a limited chance of them ever returning.
This year, in response to the negative effects of the pandemic, FundLife set up GirlsGotThis ”Works”. A 9-month program to upskill and provide dignified employment opportunities through business skill and entrepreneurship training for adolescent girls and young women (18-26) from marginalised communities hardest hit by COVID-19 emergency across Cebu.
Last month, Regine Guevara, UN Adviser of Asian Youth Council and GirlsGotThis Ambassador and Nidal Benali, the Secretary-General of AJD Football Team Morocco, hosted an online Champion Session with selected young girls. Sessions such as this focus on encouraging the girls to continue their commitment to participating in activities that develop their self-confidence and esteem, and to
keep focus on doing things that they love.
“All women are strong, but each woman has her own special way of showing her strength.”
— Nidal Banali, Secretary-General, AJD Football Team
Girl Power: Team Work Makes the Dream Work
Girl Power Organisation is a non-profit sports organization established in June 2014 by Khalida Popal, one of the 2020 Sport at the Service of Humanity Youth Mentorship program’s Mentees.
In 2011, Khalida was forced to flee her homeland of Afghanistan after receiving serious death threats resulting from her activities in support of women’s empowerment. While living in her home country of Afghanistan, she was a women’s rights activist and captain of the Afghanistan Women’s National Football Team. Now, as the founder and director of Girl Power Organisation, she uses the power of sport and education to empower girls, women, refugees and minorities. Her hard work and dedication earned her a Champion of the Year award from Peace and Sport in 2017.
“I want to dare women & girls to dream. I want them to dream big and believe in themselves for achieving those dreams. We should stand together, support each other and open the doors for us and for the future generations after us, with having great likeminded male allies beside us. We are beautiful, strong, fearless together.”
— Khalida Popal
With operations in seven countries, Girl Power continues to evolve and grow, but always with the goal of providing sports activities and educational workshops that will encourage social participation, networking, fostering of friendships and the creation of opportunities.
Whether it is the Girl Power School, Leadership Academy, Coaching Program or Football Training, Girl Power creates opportunities that encourage girls and women to take action so that they can be in control of their own lives.
In Celebration of Women
Sport has the power to unite and uplift us. It educates and empowers. It creates awareness of what is possible. For girls and women around the world, exposure to and inclusion in sport is paramount to instilling these learnings and eradicating the inequality that girls and women face every day. The skills and knowledge that women gain through sport enrich their lives both on and off the playing field.
The movements created by the International Women’s Day and organizations like GirlsGotThis and Girl Power are vital to creating awareness of the important role that sport plays for girls and women. But in order to make real, lasting change, it is imperative that we harness this momentum and carry it forward throughout the remainder of the year so that all girls around the globe have an opportunity to Live Like They Play.