All genders can play sports but around the world, stereotypes keep girls from being able to participate and play. Empowering girls to decide for themselves what they are capable of begins with creating opportunities for them to take part in activities previously kept from them solely based on their gender.
Here are a few countries in which Plan International has used football to empower girls, build their confidence and talk to them about gender equality and girls’ rights.
“At first, in the village, we were criticized. Now, we are appreciated, because we dare to tackle sensitive topics like girls’ education, teenage pregnancies and early marriage. Sport is a way to be respected. At football, we do as well as boys. And now, they listen to us! I never imagined that sport would change my life,” Daouda, 17.
In Benin, Plan International has set up female football teams in multiple communities and regions. Together with local partners, Plan International is strengthening the independence of girls and young women through workshops on equal opportunities and savings groups. It is our hope that young women in Benin are now better equipped to determine their own futures.
“If we as girls receive the appropriate training, this could help us to think differently. I am sure that if we change our mindset, we can have a great future,” Carolina, 13.
As part of Plan International’s Girls Empowerment Through Football project, girls from different communities in Honduras took part in a football tournament. Through the program, the girls developed self-esteem and leadership skills, and learned about gender equality, child protection and how to prevent teenage pregnancies.
Through Child Rights, Protection and Education programs in Bangladesh, Plan International is building the capacity of girls and helping them kick aside social norms.
Play materials are being distributed in primary schools and training is being provided so that girls can take part in non-traditional games, especially football. Parents of girls that play football are more likely to allow their daughters to enter higher education, attend a girls club and take part in other social events.
“Besides regular discussions, we also have recreational activities and life skills training workshops and demonstrations,” Nyalat, 15.
Nyalat fled South Sudan with just her younger sister and is now living in a refugee camp in Ethiopia. She’s an active member of an adolescent girls’ club, and is determined to end child marriage and domestic violence in the camp.
Plan International is working in the camp on Child Protection, Education and Youth programs and is committed to ensuring that girls in the camp are supported. Through the creation of safe spaces, girls are able to spend time with their friends and play sports.
“Football has allowed me to be financially independent. I am now an employee at the Sports Secretary, a regular guest player and an occasional sports teacher,” Josilda, 22.
Josilda joined one of Plan International’s local programs when she was 12. In addition to football classes, she participated in women’s rights and gender equality workshops. At one of her tournaments she caught the attention of a professional coach who invited her to join a specialist sports school.
Plan International supported Josilda by providing her with a scholarship that enabled her to accept the invitation. “When I got my scholarship to go to the sports school, I started believing in myself and resolved that it was worth committing myself to my passion.”
Help kick aside gender norms
Sometimes, achieving equality starts with simply being able to kick a ball across a field. Through our work, it is clear that sports can help build confidence and the leadership girls need to be able to stand up for their rights.
Plan International works around the world to advance children’s rights and equality for girls. And through our Because I am Girl initiative we are empowering girls to decide their own futures. You can help us reach even more girls by supporting our mission to make gender equality a reality.