Empowering Girls and Women – 7 Actions to Start Right Now
Sport has played a significant role in US sporting envoy and former US Deafalympian Dr Becky Clark’s life, despite a childhood trauma that caused her to lose her hearing.
Dr Clark boasts a rich and long history as a standout athlete in various sports. She earned letters in four sports in high school and played university basketball before becoming a three-time Deaflympian with a gold and two silver medals in volleyball. In addition, she is a previous all-star catcher/first baseman in fast-pitch softball and a seven-time marathoner.
“Sports taught me how to manage adversity, persist through hard times, increase my confidence, and build leadership skills,” Dr Clark says. But crucially – and regardless of her disability – sport furthered her right to an education and freedom from discrimination.
“Everyone, especially women and girls, has a right to equality, to get an education, and to participate in sports and physical activities. These are as important as having the freedom of opinion and expression, a career, a family, and many other things.”
As a sports diplomat, Dr Clark works with various organisations on education-in-sports projects to build the skills and confidence of communities and youths.
An ongoing programme she is engaged in is a rural community empowerment initiative in Thailand by RYTHM Foundation, the social impact arm of the QI Group. RYTHM is implementing the project in the kingdom’s rural Chonburi Province with its long-standing partner, ASA Foundation.
Want to be a changemaker? Here are seven ways Dr Clark suggests you can be progressive by empowering girls and women:
Encourage them to speak up with confidence. Teaching girls to speak up early could help them change the world. Experts say these are key to building a solid personal foundation. “Many girls do not get the encouragement they need to develop confidence in themselves, their abilities, and their futures. So, let’s help them along,” says Dr Clark.
Nurture their participation in sports. “Sports in education opened many doors for me, just as it can for many girls. It provides an avenue to break gender stereotypes and barriers, embrace diversity and inclusion, and create a new direction toward equality for everyone. Sports helped me stay in school and graduate.”
Celebrate her achievements. Identifying, celebrating, and increasing the visibility of female achievements can help forge equality and impact positive change for them. However, it is also a significant opportunity to reflect on yet-to-be-accomplished goals to achieve full gender equality.
Create awareness on special days. For example, commemorative events like International Day of the Girl and International Women’s Day celebrate females’ social, economic, cultural, and political achievements. But, more importantly, honouring and participating in such days also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
Be a coach, trainer, or mentor. There is no limit to what young females can achieve with encouragement and positive role models. Research shows that mentoring can benefit girls, including improved school attendance and higher graduation rates and aspirations. However, the most significant impact of mentoring comes from offering the young what is possible in their lives.
Advocate for gender equality. Gender equality is a fundamental human right, and its achievement has immense socioeconomic implications. So, speak up when it matters most, drive attention where needed, and challenge entrenched narratives that cause harm. Dr Clark adds, “We have made progress, but there is more to do. Empowering girls and women build social cohesion and create economic and educational opportunities.”
Invest in educational, economic, and sports programmes. Programmes that use sports, skills development and education can increase prosperity and diversity. Research has found that girls and women who play sports, for instance, have higher confidence and self-esteem. In addition, they have a more positive body image and experience higher states of psychological well-being.