PlayitDreamitTuesday 06.10.20: How Sports Can Be Used for Girl’s Empowerment.
This week’s edition of #PlayitDreamitTuesday, we featured Thaís Olivetti. She’s a Brazilian, and also the co-founder and CEO of Empodera, a non-profit organization that uses sport as a tool to empower adolescents’ girls towards gender equality.
QUESTIONS OF THE DAY
What challenges facing girls around the world can be addressed by sports?
Well, in my opinion, sports can be used to address practically all the challenges girls face. This is what makes sport such a powerful tool for social development and gender equality. Over the last five years, I have been working to develop safe and inclusive sports programs for girls through trainings and technical support for other Brazilian S4D organizations.
Unfortunately, girls are still facing many challenges around the world. I will talk about my context in Brazil, but I believe that many of these challenges will be similar to those faced by girls in Nigeria and in many other countries. Upon entering adolescence, girls face new challenges, such as fewer incentives to play sports and less autonomy over their bodies. At puberty, a girl’s confidence drops two times that of a boy’s and 49% of girls drop out of sports.
And it is important to highlight that the challenges that prevent girls from participating in sports are the same that prevent girls from participating fully in other spheres of society.
Girls indeed face many challenges in all spheres of life, unfortunately based on these, how can sports help empower girls?
Sports is an excellent tool to empower girls because when girls play they become physically stronger, healthier and more aware of their bodies. When girls play they develop their confidence, leadership and essential life skills, which can be transferred to other spheres of life, such as teamwork and resilience.
When playing, girls challenge socio-cultural norms and gender stereotypes. This empowers them and makes them stronger to do the same and fight for their rights in other areas of life.
By this, through sports, girls become healthier, they gain self-confidence, and are able to break gender stereotypes. How can we reform the mindset of those against girls’ participation in sports?
Excellent question. We should address girls’ participation in sports as a matter of rights. If boys can play and benefit from all that sport has to offer, why can’t girls do the same? We need to raise awareness by promoting new female role models in sports. We need to encourage women to occupy all areas of sports. This will make them realize that this is also a space for women.
Some individuals believe sports causes competition, strife, and violence, and may not be able to cause positive change, what are your thoughts on this?
Well, sport is often a reproduction of social norms. If not well conducted, it can be a breeding ground for machismo, racism and reinforcing harmful gender stereotypes. However, sport can also be a powerful tool for individual and social transformation. This is directly related to the way sports are conducted. When we create a safe and inclusive space, sports enhance socio-emotional skills such as teamwork, it unites people from different cultures and religions and creates such a powerful and unique space for social transformation.
How has your organization has been empowering girls through sports?
Empodera promotes sports practice to adolescent girls living in situations of social vulnerability, we use sports as a tool to empower adolescent girls to exercise their full potential and rights. We combine sports practice with the discussion of key issues for girl’s empowerment, such as: leadership, health, sexual and reproductive rights and prevention of gender based violence.
In this way, adolescent girls develop sports skills and also become aware of the problems that affect their realities, and develop their potential to promote significant changes in their lives and their communities. By creating safe spaces for girls in sports, we empower girls in the play field to transform the way they approach the field of life.