Empowering Girls Through Sports
Sports are out of reach for most Cambodian women, so Goals for Girls aims to help young women reclaim the sports field and learn what roles they can occupy, not only on the field, but in wider society too.
The rural province of Siem Reap is one of the poorest in Cambodia, with rural poverty characterised by low levels of education, malnutrition and poor job prospects, especially for girls. Traditionally, the woman’s role is in the home, so poor, rural families tend to prioritise the education of their sons. However, some reports show that if girls progress to high school, they are more likely to stay there than boys (UNICEF, 2020), so getting girls into high school is key.
Most girls stop participating in sports at adolescence, as such activities are seen as “masculine” and changes to the body caused by sports (darker skin from the sun, scrapes and bruises, bigger muscles) make girls “less marriageable”. Girls are not encouraged to be leaders or “think big” in terms of what they want to do when they are older.
Female participation in sports has been shown to:
- Improve leadership and decision-making skills.
- Challenge stereotypes and discriminatory attitudes.
- Lead to increased participation in education.
Girls-only sports programmes – like Goals for Girls – give girls the opportunity to explore different activities and potential roles, without the pressure of gender differences. By encouraging young women to play sports, we help them develop a host of skills that are useful on and off the sports field, including leadership, communication, discipline and teamwork.
Sport also promotes the development of self-esteem, healthy habits and body confidence in young people, especially young women, helping them to recognise their own strengths, stay in education for longer and even dream bigger.
How it works
Our Goals for Girls team meets with our professional coaches to participate in a variety of activities, including general fitness and specific skills drills. Each session also has a focus on a particular life-skill, like teamwork or leadership, or on an aspect of personal development, such as self-esteem or assertiveness. The team includes girls from our own Helping Hands Centre and girls from local schools, ages between 11 and 16 years old.
At the end of the year, the girls help to organise, manage and run the annual Globalteer Games, a sports festival for the whole community. Through this opportunity, they gain real life experience using the skills they learnt during the year, for example demonstrating confidence and using their voices.
Each girl runs a particular event on the day of the games, creating ownership that empowers her and shows her that she can command a leadership role with skill and confidence. This event also shows the community exactly what girls can do, if only they are given the chance!