Investing in the women of the future: girls

March 6, 2009

currie1– Laura Currie is director of international communications at Right to Play. The opinions expressed are her own. _

On the occasion of International Women’s Day on March 8, each year, the inevitable questions always arise: Have women made enough change? Are things as good as they are going to get?

I think that by definition, there will always be change; this will never stop. But what I find compelling is the amount of progress that women have made and that those who’ve had the opportunity to progress, continue to lead the charge and champion this chance for others.

Some women pursue this quietly and discreetly and others, in a more vociferous way. Some speak out and others take action. Some spend time with women or girls who need support and others perhaps educate boys on the role that they can play. It’s inspiring to see so many people working in their own personal way to further social and economic prospects for women.

When I joined Right To Play about a year ago, one of the things that struck me the most was the amount of focus that we, as an organisation, place on ensuring the inclusion of girls in our work and our programs. Right To Play is an international humanitarian organization that uses sport and play programs to improve health, develop life skills, and foster peace for children and communities in the most disadvantaged areas of the world.

Inclusion, as one of Right To Play’s two guiding principles (along with sustainability), is one of the key focuses of our programs. As many of the communities in which we work traditionally prioritize the education of boys over that of girls, and tend to view girls’ participation in sports and physical, public activity as negative, Right To Play has made it a primary goal to address gender equality in sports and education.

Many of Right To Play’s resources, especially “Youth as Leader” and “Team Up,” contain activities and educational games that specifically target gender equality in schools, in sports and in the community as a whole. These activities aim to encourage girls to take an active part in community life and to take on leadership roles within their schools and communities, increasing their own development and confidence and also inspiring other young girls as role models.

Right To Play training sessions for local teachers, Coaches and volunteers is another key element of our work. These training workshops also aim to include women and girls as leaders, giving children who participate in activities the chance to see women acting as community leaders and having a positive impact on others.

Right To Play continues to work to include as many girls and women as possible in our programs. In the fourth quarter of 2008, participation of girls was high at almost 50 per cent (of over 600,000 children regularly participating in activities) and more than 50 per cent of Coaches/teachers/leaders were female, out of almost 13,000.

Finally, Right To Play is proud to be supported by many female Athlete Ambassadors across the world who support Right To Play by helping to raise funds and awareness of our message. As visible role models, they play a key role in inspiring children through their visits to our field locations where they can have the chance to interact and bond with the children. The female athletes who visit our programs are not only providing young girls in disadvantaged communities with role models of successful confident women, but they also show girls that they can and should participate in sports alongside boys, and there are great physical, emotional and social benefits from doing so. Our female Athlete Ambassadors have conquered the world, and they usually welcome the chance to help other girls dream of doing the same.

Are things as good as they are going to get? No, and the fact that we stop once a year to evaluate women’s progress, to take a critical look at what else we can be doing and to celebrate women around the world, is a promising sign that we will always be striving for more.

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