When #GirlsCan Play, Everybody Wins!

By: Brittany Tatum, Women Deliver

Since the start of the seventh FIFA Women’s World Cup on 5 June in Canada, there has been a definite buzz around women in sports. Much of the conversation has been targeted towards the lack of coverage and funding women’s sports receives on a global scale. Women Deliver knows the positive ripple effect that occurs when the world invests in girls – an investment that must include access to sport.

Sports programs provide a safe space where girls can learn, grow, and prosper. Even more, sport programs can serve as a powerful platform to connect girls and adolescents with vital information, skills, and strategies needed to tackle health risks and creative positive changes in their lives, particularly related to sexual and reproductive health. To highlight and amplify the importance of girls in sport, Women Deliver launched the #GirlsCan campaign, raising awareness of how sport can positively influence girls’ lives and for more research and funding for girls’ sport.

On 6 June 2015 Women Deliver sent out a call to action for everyone to get involved and share their photos and stories to express how sport positively impacted their development.  Adeola Diya a young woman from Nigeria shared her thoughts on how sports have impacted her: “Sport[s] honed my leadership skills & gave me unparalleled self-esteem.” Soccer changed the life of Kusum Kumari, a teenager from Jharkhand, India. Before she joined Yuwa, a sport for development organization in India, she hardly went to school, and didn’t know what direction she wanted her life to go in. Through soccer, she discovered her confidence, and leadership abilities. She now wants to inspire other young girls, attend a university, and join an NGO that helps young girls.

At its core access to sport is a human right, and is absolutely essential to growth. Some girls aren’t as lucky as Adeola or Kusum – in some countries it is seen as a taboo for girls and women to go out and engage in physical activity. Harassment and discrimination also plays a huge role in why girls and women tend not to openly participate in certain sports.  When we don’t make room for girls and women in sport we see a negative effect. Higher rates of unintended pregnancy, osteoporosis, and lower states of psychological well-being are just the beginnings of what lack of sports participation can bring. Sport programmes for girls represent an effective, low-cost means of addressing these problems. When we initiate these programs for girls we are creating a critical avenue through which we can empower girls and young women while improving their health.

When you give everyone an equal opportunity to involve themselves in the world of sports you are opening the door to a mass of different skills; discipline, confidence, and leadership are only the beginnings of the valuable lessons sports teach young girls. So what can be done to insure that we give girls the tools they need to succeed? Governments must invest and implement national policies, laws, and plans that allow women and girls to exercise their right to sport and play. They must also ensure that the environment in which girls and women practice sport is safe, and free of discrimination and violence.

Creating a positive dialogue for girls is only the beginning of empowering girls on and off the field. On 18-19 June 2015 Women Deliver along with: the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, One Goal, Right to Play, and UNICEF will come together in Ottawa for the Girl Power in Play symposium. Over the next two days, leaders in sport, government, and advocacy will discuss the importance of sport in the lives of girls, and the positive effects of sport programming for girls and communities, and call for action from governments, donors, and civil society.

Because when girls play, everybody wins! 

To join the conversation follow #GirlsCan on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

To read more about #GirlsCan & The GIrl Power in Play Symposium please click here.

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