Girls’ participation in sports helps them to excel not only as athletes, but in life. According to the United Nations, girls and women who participate in sports are more likely to do a number of things:
- Attend school and participate in society.
- Work with people from different backgrounds, promoting tolerance.
- Challenge gender stereotypes and discrimination.
- Become leaders.
The U.S. Department of State is partnering with espnW to increase girls’ and women’s participation in sports worldwide. The program pairs budding female sports leaders from around the world with a female mentor from an established U.S. company or sports league, such as Google, the National Hockey League or the National Basketball Association.
Some of the participants have this to say about the efforts they are making in their home countries:
Cecilia Vales, Mexico
As head of a soccer program for Mexican and Colombian youth, Vales is challenging the culture of machismo to enable girls to transform their lives with sports. “Through soccer, we try to show girls there are other possibilities in life and there are different roads to get where they want.”
She teaches young girls soccer, but also nutrition, English and life skills to help break the cycle of poverty. “We all know soccer doesn’t last forever, so our main objective is for the girls to go to college and get a degree.”
Pavithra Chandra, India
Frustrated as a little girl that she wasn’t encouraged to pursue sports as a career, Chandra is now developing strategies for working with India’s government to create sports parity for girls through legislation and programs similar to those linked to Title IX in the U.S. Title IX requires schools that receive federal funding to provide both sexes with equal opportunities to participate in sports.
She says, “Every change we’ve made has been met with some resistance, but I know that if we take a step back, we’d never go anywhere.”
Veronica Osogo, Kenya
A former professional tennis player, Osogo is working to change children’s lives in Kibera, one of Nairobi’s poorest neighborhoods. “There are problems all around me, but I can do something about them,” she says. “I can change a life. And I can use sport to do that. Sports are lifelong skills that empower people to become independent leaders and thinkers.”