The potential benefits of sports for women and girls development

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Sports as a means for development is not a novelty. It has been used by international agencies to counter the traumatic effects of war and internal conflict as well as gender-based violence . Similarly, sport in itself is not an all-encompassing means to development meaning that it should not work against other forms of economic, cultural or political initiatives because it may not always directly provide women with the capabilities and entitlements necessary for them to development . However, in areas where other development programs have failed to provide a safe environment where women and girls can foster self-esteem and challenge gender norms, sports can be an innovative practice to provide them with such a safe space .

Sports carry many benefits for girls and women. It has the ability to promote gender equality, enhance health and well-being while simultaneously being a potential venue through which girls and women can develop themselves and their communities .Sports can facilitate women and girls’ social inclusion, interaction outside of their regular structures and challenge gender norms. For example, in Uganda, sports such as rugby is not considered a sport for female. Yet, although the number may seem small, 2000 girls currently play rugby in the country .

In contexts where school dropout among girls and early child marriage is high, sports can encourage and support girls to stay in school while providing them with an educational setting . Through such activities, girls and women can be put in a position where opportunities for leadership and achievement – that can also be transferred later on into other domains – will be at their disposition . Also, values present in sports can relate to the pursuit of gender equality and women’s empowerment such as strength, perseverance, commitment, team spirit, solidarity, negotiation and respect for others . It can be used as an educational platform where women and girls learn about new physical skills, issues intrinsic to their gender, health care and how to engage in positive relationships . It has the ability to bring unity by connecting people from different backgrounds, beliefs and values together while creating an environment that allows for psycho-social development and healthy practices.

Sports initiatives can also serve as means to address the marginalization of adolescent girls and therefore improve their status while augmenting their gender relations in the communities in which they live . In other words, it has the ability to redirect women and also youth’s energy into positive activities. Perhaps, with the rise of information communication technology (ICT), sports for development will intersect with ICT to create innovative venues and methods to promote gender equality and create environments that will enable women and young girls to discover their full potential.

LaRissa Ituze