|Through the triathlon program at Girls in the Game, most of the girls learned to swim for the first time. Simply having learning opportunities like these is crucial in helping our young girls become strong women who defy and shatter that glass ceiling. Photo by Son Young-chai
Girl on girl talk: How girls are spreading the game
At Teen Squad, high school girls are given the opportunity to lead and hold workshops in the fields of sports, health, nutrition and leadership for younger girls from kindergarten to 8th grade. Many of these girls have been in Girls in the Game since elementary or middle school, further enriching the bond that these girls share.
“Through Teen Squad, I saw how much I was able to impact young girls and how much fun they had just from doing a couple of workshops with me,” shared Lucy, a former Teen Squad member, and now an intern. “That experience gave me great strength and confidence. But most importantly, I found out what it means to be a leader, how powerful that role is, and how to be one.”
For the program, teenage girls also get to interview adult women in different professions. Through the interviews, they are able to share the mission of Girls in the Game with an adult, and in turn receive mentoring and hands-on experience in a specific professional field.
In recent years, many other organizations that shares the message Girls in the Game is trying to spread are emerging. The concept of utilizing sports as a tool for the social liberation and empowerment of women has been building momentum on the global front. Organizations big and small, like UNESCO, Women in Sport in the United Kingdoms, Women Win in Africa and developing countries, the Women’s Sports Foundation in the United States all advocate women’s sports participation as a means to achieve women’s empowerment.
In February, UN Assistant Secretary-General and UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri dug deep into this subject, as she emphasized sport’s ability to generate tangible change by invalidating gender discrimination.
“Women in sports defy the misperception that they are weak or incapable,” Puri stated. “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.”
Even disregarding gender, evidence of the positive effects of sports is prevalent. Sports are known to develop the economic, emotional and physical status of individuals. They provide participants and communities with leadership skills that transfer to civic engagement and enhance professional careers. Team sports are especially known to develop sportsmanship, negotiation skills and respect for others.
However, in our era, women are still excluded and shadowed from the benefits of sports, which is often labeled as “manly”, or a “male-dominated” field. Especially in Korea, where school physical education sessions consist of the boys playing ball and girls sitting by the sidelines, the gender imbalance in sport is accentuated from a young age.
“When I was younger, there was an unspoken rule that soccer is for boys and dodgeball is for girls,” said Professor Hong Una of Ewha Womans University’s department of Kinesiology and Sports Studies. “This is largely due to the socially imbedded idea that girls shouldn’t play soccer. It’s extremely important that we allow girls and boys to experience a variety of sports according to their interests from a very early age,” she stressed.