The International Guide to Designing Sport Programmes for Girls is a collaboratively-authored tool designed to inform organisations as they develop effective, sustainable, sport programmes that serve girls and women. Simply put, this Guide seeks to answer the question: how do you design a quality sport programme that serves the needs of girls?
We are releasing our official guideline to designing sport programmes for girls under the Creative Commons license.
Over the past five years, Women Win has compiled the best practices, challenges, and innovations in this report with the help of scores of organisations. Women Win also consulted existing research, members of the Women Win’s Advisory Council and experts in the field. The dedicated individuals who lead these organisations, like you, are in the world, doing the important work of empowering girls through sport every day. This guide was informed by the real-life experiences of sport programmes and girls throughout the world.
The guide is written for anyone, in any country, who wants to empower girls through sport. It is ideal for an individual or grassroots organisation interested in building or improving sport programmes for girls, including teams, girls’ and women’s organisations, schools, clubs and faith-based groups. It can also serve as a reference for coaches, international sport and development organisations, donors, sport governing bodies, caregivers, researchers and policy makers. The ideas in this guide can be applied directly to small groups of girls, as well as for informing larger, multinational initiatives.
This guide is aimed at programmes that serve girls ages 10 to 18, with a specific focus on the younger adolescent, ages 10 to 14. Women Win has chosen to target the younger adolescent because of the vulnerability of that age. The younger adolescent is at a crossroads between childhood and adulthood, and her body and place in society are changing and vulnerable. In many cultures, the younger adolescent is at point where she either continues her education or becomes a child bride. Between the ages of 10 and 14, she enters puberty and becomes susceptible to being sexually targeted by others, putting her at risk for pregnancy and disease. Women Win believes that this age presents the greatest potential for positive change in the life of an adolescent girl, both because of a girl’s vulnerability and because of her potential to be an agent for social change.
Sustainable programmes must be led by people who understand and address the key challenges facing girls and their families. Challenges girls face are different from challenges affecting boys. Girls face gender-specific and institutionalized barriers to participation in sport and have unique motivations and expectations for their sporting experience. For example, a girl living in a poor household is often expected to care for younger siblings. A programme built to serve her needs, and the needs of her community, will have to accommodate her duties at home, or provide childcare while she participates in a sport programme. Ethically and practically, Women Win believes that the programmes that serve girls most effectively are those that emphasize girls’ wellness over winning. Sport is inherently a competitive space. Girls can benefit greatly from learning how to compete, how to win and how to lose. However, as you will see in this guide, Women Win also believes that a successful sport programme should strengthen girls on and off of the field; growth and development of an adolescent girl is always more important than winning or losing.
Adaptation of this Guide
At Women Win, we understand that girls’ development and empowerment is not a one size fits all approach. Certain ways of teaching life skills to adolescent girls in the urban centres of India might not work for girls in the rural villages of Sierra Leone. What is empowering for some girls may not be empowering for others.
While this Guide attempts to capture universal best practices, Women Win recognizes that regional and programme diversity means each strategy must be personalised to meet specific needs. A diversity of challenges demands a diversity of solutions. Women Win hopes this guide will provide general guidelines and inspire you to think strategically and creatively so that your programme fits effectively within your cultural setting. We encourage organisations to use this guide as a starting point for dialogue with the community and most importantly, with the adolescent girls in the programme. Empowerment cannot come from a set of standardised outcomes, but will come from the experiences and real real-life situations of the adolescent girls you are trying to reach. This guide is not meant to be a source of definitive solutions, but a guide to help your organisation ask the right questions.
Most importantly, please share with us your own experiences in applying these guidelines so Women Win may learn from you about how to best provide effective, safe, empowering and rewarding sport opportunities for girls throughout the world.