In the highly rewarding journey of asserting girls rights and empowering girls, everything counts. Thus, it is unacceptable that “Sport” is often overlooked in strategic frameworks and programmatic engagements, as a cross-cutting developmental platform for girls. Against the backdrop of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 in Canada, there cannot be a better time to advocate for more girls to appear on the field in order to discover their potentials and enhance groundbreaking performance off the field.
Many individuals who participate in active sports, struggle to express the incredible feeling that envelopes them when they win. Whether it is scoring an unexpected goal, making a formidable pass or completing a challenging marathon, the “can do it” attitude that accompanies optimum participation in sport is indeed one of a kind. This is in addition to the innumerable physical, mental and health dividends of sporting.
Despite the game-changing nature of sport, it is interesting that girls and sport are rarely mentioned within the same context. Backed by age-long socio-cultural stereotypes, many girls who manifest keen interest in sport are quickly redirected to more “girlish” interests like cooking and sewing. In Nigeria (where Physical Education is one of the elective subjects in Senior High School) female students account for less than 20% of a regular Physical Education class, as opposed to other elective subjects in the field of Home Economics – where up to 97% of the class are girls.
The price for the absence of girls in sport is far-reaching, both for girls themselves and the society. For one, girls’ participation in sport is a simple and practical way to crush gender stereotypes and advance gender equality across the globe. When girls can perform the same activities as their male counterparts on the field of play, encouraging equality off the field becomes more feasible and attractive. This means that keeping girls away from sport takes the world two steps backwards, in the quest for gender equality.
Again, the fast-paced and inclusive nature of sport unarguably presents a natural atmosphere for learning to take charge and make sensitive choices. Since sport is an excellent avenue for nurturing these leadership skills, girls who stay away from it are more likely to lag behind in learning to be proactive and responsible. More importantly, anti-sport girls continue to miss out on the immense health benefits of sport and this greatly affects their general well-being. For instance, in the sphere of Adolescent Reproductive Health, it has been widely proven that girls who exercise regularly or engage in sporting activities have less painful periods and are less likely to suffer from menstrual-related depression.
While it is crystal clear that not every girl has a Serena Williams to unleash from within, supporting girls to be active in sports and play is a gigantic step in the right direction. This is why Girl Pride Circle is throwing her weight behind the #GirlsCan & #GirlPowerInPlay advocacy campaign launched by Women Deliver, UNICEF, Right to Play, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), and One Goal . Among other things, the campaign seeks to increase global awareness on how sport can positively influence girls’ lives and call for more research and funding for girls’ sport.
Engagement in sport is a dynamic way for girls to acquire several competencies and life skills that prepare them to stand out. Consequently, bridging the gap between girls and sport ensures that girls jump swiftly across all hurdles that separate them from their beautiful dreams.