I’m really honoured to be able to share some ideas and examples of great women’s and girls’ sports projects around the world.
I’ve been coaching in a wide variety of countries over the past few years; and what strikes me is how well sports can connect people from different cultures and backgrounds; even if they seem difficult to reach.
For example, in Colombia I ran football coaching sessions for single mums from disadvantaged backgrounds living on an island! The challenges were accepting the Colombian punctuality (sometimes the ladies were 4 hours late!) and also managing to catch a sporadic boat across and back from the island- but all worthwhile to give the ladies a chance to play football and have a break from the challenges they faced.
We are fortunate in our culture to have access to sport; whereas last year when I coached refugees living in Germany, very few girls and women would engage due to cultural restrictions and traditions. Hopefully as Sported members we can all help to bring sport to women who don’t normally have chances to be involved, and use it for positive changes.
I saw the effects of football being used for positive change when I volunteered with Tackle Africa to deliver HIV education to women through football games. The women then teach the games to girls in their community so that the health messages are spread with a greater impact- using sports has been proven to be a lot more effective than traditional teaching methods. KickStart Ghana have also committed to women’s and girls’ empowerment projects- and I’d really recommend them if you are ever looking to do some volunteering.
I am now part of a team devising similar games to convey messages about the UN Global Goals with the charity Global Goals World Cup. They are running female football festivals all around the world to spread messages about the 17 Global Development Goals. The tournament has a twist in that it’s not just the team that scores the most goals that wins, but also each team has to promote and take action on one of the Global Goals. The tournaments are a fantastic collection of likeminded women who want to improve the world!
Having recently moved back to the UK after coaching in NZ, Chile and Germany, I have just started up a project called Feel Real. I am massively passionate about improving girls’ self esteem, as the statistics about the low levels of self confidence in girls between 7-14 years in the UK are staggering. I really want to empower girls to feel confident in themselves and with their body image. I’ve started pilot projects in a couple of schools in Bristol- in which each week we deliver different sports and activities to girls at this critical age. Providing an inclusive, encouraging and fun environment to do exercise, feeling part of a team and being able to discuss any worries or concerns that they may have, hopefully will keep the girls active in the future and enhance their self-esteem. I’d be really keen to link up or share ideas with anyone trying to do similar projects.
The charity that I work for: Urban Pursuit endeavours to support the most vulnerable teenagers in Bristol and help them to re-engage with education through adrenaline sports and adventure activities. We have increasing numbers of girls in our programmes and so we are working hard to make sure that they are engaged and included within our groups.
Girls and women face different barriers in terms of access to sport and activities; so I think it’s really important to understand the challenges that they are facing before embarking on a project; so that you can offer them the best possible opportunities to enjoy sports and being active. I hope this week will be fantastic for all women and girls involved!