Many caregivers may not be educated in the dominant language of their community. They may speak a different language or may not be literate. Speaking to caregivers in their own language, whenever possible, will help them to feel respected and included. Also, being aware that sending a written consent form home to caregivers who are not literate may make them feel excluded and make them dislike your programme.
Caregivers are the single greatest barrier or accelerator to a girls’ participation in a sport program. In most programs around the world, they are the key. This is especially important in contexts where it is not normal for women or girls to play sport or be seen in athletic clothing or out on a field. Caregivers also influence other caregivers, and if they are educated about the benefits of your programme and feel that they are a part of it, then they will be more likely to encourage other caregivers to send their daughters to the programme. It is critical to earn the trust and support of caregivers. It is in each girl’s best interest for the programme directors and coaches to be on the same ‘team’ as caregivers in order to avoid having a participant feel like she must choose between participating in sport and obeying the wishes of her caregivers.
Common Barriers Preventing Caregivers from Supporting Sport Programmes
- Daily chores and work at home that girls are expected to do; unpaid care work
- Fear that neighbours will look down on the family if their daughter is participating in sport, or that girls will be undesirable for marriage
- Fear of girls’ safety when they have to travel far to sport trainings or of physical injuries
- Belief that girls will become sexually active and as a result become pregnant because of playing sport in public
- Dislike of sport clothing because it is too revealing (e.g., football shorts)
- Caregivers wanting to participate in sport themselves and therefore unhappy with space being given to daughters
- Less time for girls’ studies
- Belief that organisations are benefitting financially because girls attend the programme
- Worry that the place where the girls play is not safe
- Lack of exposure to/experience with sport (especially for women)
Incentives or Motivations for Engagement
It is important to identify what would motivate caregivers to support a girls’ sport programme in their community. Through this knowledge it will be easier to engage them. Incentives or motivations might include:
- Improved access to education for their daughters
- Community recognition for their involvement with the organisation
- Their own interest in participating in sport
- Building more spaces for sport in the community
- Food at community events
- Household items, food, or clothing for families in need of basic necessities
Strategies for Engagement
- Educate caregivers about all aspects of your programme and listen to their concerns.
- Be absolutely transparent and honest at all times.
- If caregivers have a lack of knowledge on life skills issues, give them information or organise a session for them on the life skills information that you provide to their daughters through sport.
- Ask caregivers for permission for their daughters to participate through consent forms or verbal consent. This demonstrates that you respect their role in their daughters’ lives.
- Assure caregivers of the physical and emotional safety of the girls while participating in the programme.
- Invite caregivers to:
- participate occasionally in sessions, or to observe
- attend programme events; distribute official written invitations, which add importance
- Visit the home of participants regularly, especially if a girl has been absent or if you become aware of a conflict with her caregivers.
- Create a committee for caregivers in which they can meet and make recommendations for the programme, as well as have their own defined position within the programme, such as the Secretary of Caregiver Committee.
- Ask for feedback on the success of the programme throughout the year.
- Ask about the skills or knowledge they would like their girls to attain through the programme.
- Work with caregivers to develop a daily schedule for their daughters so that they can do all of their household chores and attend the sport programme.
- Teach girls time management skills to balance home responsibilities and sport participation.
- Organise friendly competitions between girls and caregivers, such as mother/daughter or father/daughter sport days.
- Give caregivers small income-earning opportunities by training them to serve as officials, organise events, or maintain facilities.
- Recognise supporting caregivers with an award. Be clear about what it takes to earn an award to avoid accusations of favouritism.
- Utilise and engage caregivers who are enthusiastic from the onset. One great strategy is to use caregivers who are on board with your programme as advocates who can talk to sceptical caregivers.
- Identify and utilise different strategies for male and female caregivers.
- Male caregivers often have an idea of the power of sport and its impacts since they themselves may have played or still play. Leverage this by highlighting their own experiences and what sport could do for their daughters.
- On the other hand, many female caregivers may have never kicked or caught a ball themselves.
- Organise sport days for them so that they too experience the joy of sport.
How It Works
Moving the Goalposts recognised that caregivers would often refuse consent to send girls to the football and life skills programme. Instead of telling the caregivers they were wrong, MTG staff visited the homes of the girls and asked the caregivers why they were not allowing the girls to attend. One of the reasons they discovered was that caregivers did not think that their daughters had enough time to complete all of their household chores and to attend football sessions. To address this, MTG staff now sits down with caregivers and girls to make a plan or schedule for their days so that their time is planned and they can do both their home duties and attend the programme. As a result, the caregivers feel more involved, and more girls in Kilifi are able to attend the programme.
In addition, participants at Moving the Goalposts selected 48 fathers who respect girls’ rights and support them in their empowerment process through football. The supportive fathers were invited for a Father’s Day celebration on June 15th at MTG’s headquarters. The fathers interacted with the field leaders in discussions, film screenings, and a football match. Topics that were highlighted were girls’ rights, responsibilities of girls and fathers, and how to involve fathers more in the upbringing of their daughters and participation in MTG.
One supportive father is Mwanasha’s father: ‘My daughter has a baby, and she is not married. In MTG she can give herself a chance. I am willing to stay at home with my grandson and give my daughter all support.’
Caption: Fathers pose for a picture at MTG's Father's Day event.
Boxgirls creates different caregiver community groups that allow caregivers an opportunity to be involved in different aspects of their children’s sport programme. Caregivers can join the local child protection committee or participate in organising boxing tournaments and outreach events. In addition, because mothers or female caregivers are usually the ones who come to meetings and are most involved, staff at Boxgirls make a special effort to recognise and applaud fathers or male caregivers who come to meetings and events.
One Family People gives a manual on reproductive health to all of the mothers of the girls who participate in their programme so that the mothers have the resources and confidence to help inform their daughters about the issues that are being addressed at sport sessions.
Tiempo de Juego, a grassroots organisation using sport with adolescent girls, created a social business project that gives participants and their mothers an opportunity to get training and work in a bakery. This provides families with incentives for letting their girls participate in sport activities. The organisation also involves mothers in sport activities. Some of the mothers train every week, have their own Tiempo de Juego uniforms, and coach themselves as a ‘mums’ team. Most of the women have little/no experience with football. However, the opportunity to relax, see the conditions their girls are playing in, and enjoy camaraderie with other women in a safe space outside the home is a powerful strategy for gaining support.
The Asian Football Development Programme, which works with Syrian refugees in camps in Jordan, would ask local families in the camp what they needed so their basic needs were met before asking if their daughters could play in the football programme. The organisation also builds covered, indoor fields, which was a must for most families and their daughters.