Women’s History Month provides an opportunity to celebrate women's achievements, raise awareness against bias and take action for equality. This March, I want to recognise the influence of sports participation for women and girls, and honour the progress and continuing struggle for equality for women in sport.
In 1966, Roberta ‘Bobbi’ Gibb, also known as ‘the woman who crashed the Boston Marathon’, emerged from the bushes near the Boston starting line to join thousands of all-male runners. Bobbi had a personal mission to overcome prejudice against women in sport having been denied entry to the race because of her sex.
“In that moment I thought like the world is never going to be the same again. A pivotal moment… I had opened the gates of prison and let women out.”
Although we’ve come a long way over the past 55 years since Bobbi made history, it’s clear that much more can be done, especially as participation rates in sport among women and girls are much lower than for men.
Here’s the good news – there are many charities to choose from on GivenGain that encourage female participation in sport and use it as a vehicle for social change.
For example, Moving the Goalposts (MTG) is a non-profit organisation in Kenya which uses football to help disadvantaged girls and young women to become leaders. Since its founding, MTG has worked with over 30,000 adolescent girls and young women providing pathways in education, vocational training and employment.
The male-dominated culture of sport itself presents a challenge – denying an interest in sport is sadly a normalised perception of what it means to be a woman, but US Charity Run the Bases has turned this on its head by tackling gender inequality through softball. By deliberately steering clear of more traditional sports like football, they create a gender-neutral environment where everyone is starting on a level playing field.
Other charities working to increase female inclusion through sport include Flama. As the first women’s sport foundation in Peru, Flama works with public and private institutions to fight for equitable access to sport, on and off the field or court.
“She can’t chase her dreams if she is standing still.”
South African charity ActivateHer uses sports to create a setting for girls to understand their bodies, work together in teams, and improve comprehension of English and math. In turn, the Sport-Aid Development Trust, working in Zambia, uses football as a channel for empowering adolescent girls through financial literacy and entrepreneurship.
Also working to level the playing field is Girls & Football SA which recognises the importance of media in informing our attitudes towards women in sport. The charity works with various media outlets to raise awareness of women’s sport in South Africa, address the imbalance in media coverage and offer strong female role models to inspire young girls and women.
Through sports, young girls and women can find their voice, claim their right to education and develop resilience. Sport is a universal language and brings people together regardless of their sex, gender, ethnicity, religion, etc. Let’s continue to change the game and unlock the possibilities in every girl and woman through the power of sport!
Robyn Andrews is Regional Manager: UK and Ireland at the GivenGain Foundation. Her favourite sports are netball, badminton and football.