Sport has huge potential to empower women and girls. In many countries, it has been recognized that sport can be a force to amplify women's voices and tear down gender barriers and discrimination. Women in sport defy the misperception that they are weak or incapable. Every time they clear a hurdle or kick a ball, demonstrating not only physical strength, but also leadership and strategic thinking, they take a step towards gender equality. There is good evidence that participation in sports not only helps improve girls and women’s health and personal growth, but also helps to break-down gender stereotypes, improve girls’ and women’s self-esteem and contribute to the development of leadership skills. We want to create a girls-only soccer club to create a safe space where social issues can be discussed, giving local participants the confidence to use their voice and challenge culture and tradition. We hope for the girls to stay in the club not just for the physical benefit or because they see themselves getting better at the sport, but because they find camaraderie, support and empowerment within the group.
My research and personal experience points to the fact that the success of any community program should be deeply rooted in its local context, and should not be replicated without first being adapted. You can’t take one already successful program and just drop it into another country or community. You’ve got to take the principles, and then be willing to adjust that over a period of time. I worked with several community members in Batey Libertad to create surveys to understand what prevented girls from playing sports or, for that matter, even just playing outside. We found that while some girls were comfortable playing with boys, others preferred a girls-only environment. We also found that available free time was limited because of household responsibilities. This information led us to adjust our ideas for the programming of a girls-only soccer club called "Girls Outside". We wish to create a flexible girls-only soccer club for ages 8-16 that meets on Saturday afternoons. We are still experimenting with the time and day of the week to maximize participation. We will separate the time into 2 hours: 1 hour of practice/play and 1 hour of group sharing. We are seeking donations for soccer equipment, for paper and colored pencils for journaling and self-expressive activities, and for team/club shirts.