This Sunday (8 March), women around the world will unite to mark International Women’s Day. It will provide an opportunity to celebrate women’s achievements and provide a call to action to tackle the gender inequalities that still persist in some parts of the world.
I am a member of the Youth Sport Trust Youth Board and for our charity, International Women’s Day is the perfect opportunity to highlight the barriers that some women and girls face in relation to sport and physical activity.
Getting girls and women to undertake more sport is hugely important. As Sport England’s hugely successful This Girl Can campaign has shown, there are 2 million more men than women play sport regularly in the UK, with only 16% of girls age 5-15 meeting the minimum recommended guidelines for physical activity.
We know that a bad experience of PE at school can put girls off sport and physical activity for life. I know firsthand that too many girls suffer from low self esteem, particularly compared to boys. Our worries about our appearance or abilities become a barrier to taking part in sport. If a PE lesson doesn’t meet our needs, make us feel good, or build our skills, it’s little surprise that too few girls go on to take part in sport during their teenage or adult years.
This is why initiatives such as Girls Active, a programme designed to put girls centre stage, resonates so strongly. It allows girls to design their own PE lessons and work with their teachers to increase participation in their own schools. Crucially, the programme recognises that girls themselves are uniquely positioned to 'sell' PE and school sport to their friends and peers and supports girls to act as role models amongst fellow pupils. I can’t think of anything better than to inspire and be inspired by my own friends to get active.
Young women have been given the opportunity to empower their peers through sport and it works. During a pilot last year, Girls Active achieved outstanding results: The number of girls who look forward to PE lessons nearly doubled and those who are happy with the way their body looks more than doubled from 25% to 56%.
This month, the Youth Sport Trust will host the first ever ‘Girls Active Camp’ from March 27-29 at Loughborough University. The 165 girls attending the three-day camp will work together to explore potential barriers to enjoying PE in their school, while learning how to use their leadership skills to create change within their own environments.
The theme of International Women’s Day this year is ‘Make It Happen’ and that’s exactly what the Youth Sport Trust are doing with Girls Active; empowering girls to inspire and motivate other women to participate, lead and actively volunteer in sport.
To find out more about the Girls Active Camp please click here.