How Exactly Is a Girl Empowered by Sport?

Six hundred million girls are growing up in developing countries today.1 International authorities, from the World Bank to the United Nations, agree that the most effective way to fight poverty in the world is to help girls and women. Sport has been increasingly respected as a valuable tool for empowering youth in developing countries. However, opportunities to participate in sport for development programs are often designed for, and dominated by boys and men as opposed to girls.

When provided with the opportunity, we know that girls can significantly benefit from the economic, emotional and physical self-determination that an intentionally-crafted sport for development program can offer. It can be an accelerator to her actualizing her full potential.

If you've participated in sport, you probably understand this proposition implicitly.
The way we like to frame the change we see in girls through sport is through our "Three As" Theory of change. Through a well-designed sport program, a girl can gain assets, access and agency.

Building Assets
Sport builds three main assets: social, human and sport skills. When a girl has the opportunity to develop these areas, she can create social networks, build mental and emotional health, become educated about her rights, and develop tactical and technical sport skills - not to mention physical strength. These assets are the building blocks to more confidence and, for many, the first steps up and out.

Providing Access to Resources
Community and institutional resources are often limited for girls. Well-designed sport programs can serve as a way "in" to gaining much-needed support. They can help link girls to health, education, and other critical sectors as well as provide access to powerful and important information for their healthy development. Sport programs can also provide girls with access to mentors, strong female role models and the social support of a team or group of peers.

Developing Agency
Agency is the ability of a girl to act in her own self-interest. Sport gives girls the opportunity to develop self-determination in a safe environment. In a sport program, girls have an opportunity to become leaders, to witness and be applauded for their own progress, and to use their voices. This can increase girls' belief in their own abilities. This translates into everyday life - it encourages them to take initiatives and attempt things they never assumed possible. Building agency for one girl doesn't just help her, it also helps those around her. As she begins to exercise her muscles of leadership, she becomes an increasingly valuable contributor to her family, her program and her greater community.

At Women Win, we base our global strategy on this theory of change because we know it works. As girls build assets, gain access to critical resources and advance their agency, we believe they have the opportunity to grow into the (s)heroes they were born to be.