Position Girls in Leadership Roles


At Boxgirls, in Nairobi, Kenya, boys are invited to train with the girls from time to time. Gym space is limited in the slum. Priest, the leader of the programme, often has a more experienced female boxer instruct a less experienced, younger male boxer. This encourages the boy’s respect for the girl’s mental and physical skill, while building the girl’s confidence in herself and her abilities.

At Sadili Oval, in Nairobi, Kenya, young tennis players train to be the best they can be. Girls and boys alike come every day to improve skills, get stronger and become well-rounded athletes. Director Dr. Liz Odera, a former professional tennis player, believes that girl-boy integration is the ideal for a sport programme, primarily because this is how we all live in society. Once a girl has established a feeling of comfort and confidence at Sadili Oval, she is encouraged to play matches against athletes of similar skill level, boys or girls.

In the Naz Foundation’s Goal programme, a sport for development intervention in India, girl Goal Champions lead select life skills sessions as well as teach netball skills to boys who would hang around during the girls’ practices. Kalyani Subramanyam, who runs the programme, realized that the boys wanted to know what how to play netball because it was something new to them, netball being traditionally a girls’ game. Kalyani used girls in her programmes who were leaders to teach those boys how to play netball and lead them through selected life skills sessions as well. 

Boys will typically try to assume leadership roles in a programme. It is important to demonstrate that girls are capable of being strong leaders. Girls need this education as much as boys do. According to programme partners, it is not uncommon for girls to be shy and reluctant to be vocal or volunteer in front of boys. They are culturally programmed to yield to males. Give girls the opportunity to be team captains, teach skills to younger boys and lead discussions. Position them in places of power whenever possible, even if it initially makes them uncomfortable. Team-building exercises addressing gender inequities with the group are recommended. It is important to have full engagement and ownership by both boys and girls so boys do not feel that they are the problem. A discussion or activity around respect for one another and why respect is important and non-negotiable can be an effective start to integration.