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Girls’ leadership development through sport
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a young girl with braids runs with a rugby ball
Bhubesi Pride Foundation focuses on developing leadership in women and girls through a rugby-based sport for development program across multiple countries in Africa.

“This is the first country I’ve been to that they will pass to girls first.” A volunteer who had coached in three other countries conveyed this to me during our first session at our assigned school. During interviews and fieldwork conducted with teachers, parents, and community members, it quickly became evident that girls and young woman were benefitting from the rugby-based programming that Bhubesi Pride Foundation was facilitating.

The benefits that were identified and observed throughout the research included increased attendance in school during rugby season, education opportunities, leadership development, and the challenging of gender stereotypes in sports. The goal of this article is to highlight the leadership development that young girls and woman experienced from participating in a rugby-based sport for development programming.

Promoting girls’ sport

In the youth programming (ages 10-15) all teams are split half boys, and half girls, which challenges the sporting norms in this community, as it is not common for girls and boys to play sports together. Another step taken to promote young girls’ leadership is appointing them as captains of teams, which comes with duties including organizing their teams and assisting in running drills and providing demonstrations.

The impacts of this extend beyond the rugby pitch – in interviews with teachers of these youth, it was highlighted multiple times that girls who participated in rugby were much more likely to answer questions and participate in class. Other volunteer coaches discussed how girls in this community are confident and are not afraid to call for something or tell the boys on their teams when they have done something wrong. Further, they are just as likely to participate as the boys. An example I witnessed was when a boy on a team organized the line for a drill to go girl, boy, girl, boy as so on, to ensure that everyone had equal opportunity to participate.

Girls’ leadership

A way in which Bhubesi Pride Foundation has been achieving leadership development for young girls and women is by having local female coaches as organizers and managers. One of the prominent coaches in the community was a teacher in a local school and she discussed the impacts role models had on the young girls extensively. She believed that having female coaches gave the youth a belief that rugby is a sport for both girls and boys, leading to increased confidence in their rugby abilities.

Other coaches reiterated this observation stating that young girls on the sidelines could be shy or reserved but on the rugby pitch, they became confident and animated. The impact of having female role models is best summarized by the aforementioned local coach, who said:

“It is important because these girl,s if they see me playing rugby, they see me as a teacher, they also will try their best to do well in school. They can even be doctors… So, they are able to do well when they see rugby female teachers and female coaches”

The impacts that rugby (or any sport) programming can have on young girls and woman can extend into other aspects of their lives. Properly curated sport for development initiatives can elevate young girls and woman in the communities they work with, which can lead to increased confidence, education opportunities and aspirations for those involved. The importance of elevating young women and girls cannot be understated, as stated by a former participant and current local coach that “building this country is to educate the girls to be the future leaders”.  

______________________________________________________________________________

Bhubesi Pride Foundation is an organization conducting sport for development programming in multiple African countries. They aim to unite, empower, and inspire communities through the power of sport. Justin Robar volunteered with the organization in 2015, and 2019, and during his second trip he conducted his master’s research. This article is based on findings from his research and work with Bhubesi Pride Foundation.

Tags

Country
Does not apply
Region
Africa
Sport
Rugby
Sustainable Development Goals
5 - Gender equality
Themes
Target Group
Girls and women

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