Female Empowerment

Why girls must play sports

Why is it important for girls to play sports? This is a question we ask all of our participants, all over the world. The need for female empowerment on a global scale is urgent. We recognize that need and in response allow it to permeate throughout our organization on and off the field. Our team is made up of at least 60% female coaches, and we do not accept partner programs that do not include women in their activities.

How to start the change

Gender equity is our ultimate goal. Yet, so often we hear the phrase, “she doesn’t play like a girl.” How do we move away from this type of mentality that so generalizes and devalues female potential? In order to bring this issue to the forefront, we ensure that every player learns a Gender Equity game. One of these is Messi for Gender Equity, which addresses issues of violence, in particular violence against women and girls.

Game: Messi for Gender Equality

In this game taggers represent different forms of violence – physical, emotional, verbal, sexual – and chase the others around a box that represents their community. If tagged, a player has to freeze with one hand covering their mouth, signifying the inability to speak. We then stop and discuss how difficult it was for the players being chased. We ask who in their community can help put an end to violence against females, with each answer being rewarded with a ball. In the next round, these balls can be passed among the players being chased, representing members of the community who can help prevent violence and assist victims of violence. The players in possession of a ball are safe, and those who are frozen can be freed if a ball passes through their legs. The final round of this game allows the frozen players to call for help, demonstrating that an act of violence did not take away their voice.

Messi for Gender Equity is a terrific game of tag that incorporates the ball and captures the essence of violence – the effects, how to stop it, how to help each other, how to help ourselves. The game embodies the message, and the details come through in the discussions, which, as always, vary as the culture varies. For example, a group of sixty middle-aged men in Cité Soleil, Haiti, will have a different discussion from a group of twenty teenage girls in downtown Mumbai, India.

Giving children their voice

Every person, young or old, female or male, is entitled to a voice and a choice

With this game, and many others, an obvious target is the voice. Our voice is the most powerful tool that we can use to make our own choices and decisions in life, and it is therefore a major focus of all the work we do. Every person, young or old, female or male, is entitled to a voice and a choice, and we work to empower them to claim those rights.

Our Monitoring & Evaluation shows us that the percentage of participants who know how to use soccer to give young girls a voice and to have confidence to make personal choices jumps from 17% before a CAC training to 96% after.