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Girls who play sport can become more confident women.

8 March is International Women’s Day, an opportunity to celebrate women’s achievements and advancements. The theme this year is #PressforProgress, because of the need to address gender gap issues such as equal pay and negative stereotypes.

Another area where progress is needed is women’s participation in sport. Research consistently highlights a discrepancy between male and female participation in sport in many countries. The Millennium Cohort Study, for example, has shown that 63% of boys in the UK aged seven reach recommended levels for physical activity, compared to 38% off girls in that age group.

Sometimes girls are excluded from sport and play because of culture, fear of harassment or societal pressures. These girls are missing out on the benefits of sport. According to the Women's Sports Foundation, girls who play and participate in sports have a brighter and healthier future. Here are some reasons why we should encourage girls to play:

  1. Girls who play sports are better at handling goal setting and become better at teamwork. One of the most essential things about sport is the values that it teaches. So many games require a team effort, and this will teach girls to stick together in the game and in daily life.
  2. Playing can sometimes be seen as just a leisure activity, but in reality exercise is important for health. Benefits include reducing the chance of developing cardiovascular diseases and osteoporosis, which mostly effects women at an older age.
  3. Let’s talk about healthy minds. Sport and physical activity have a major role in increasing girls confidence. This means girls will make better decisions as they get older. Confidence will also allow girls to become independent women who can play important roles in improving communities. Other benefits include improving learning and concentration, which will give girls more options in later life.

The Nike Foundation created the slogan the “girl effect”, which claims that helping one girl will have empowering effects on their social circles and future generations. This bold claim is also a great example of  how sports can have a positive effect on women and girls. Mothers and other caregivers will pass on their new learned habits and values to girls who will also continue to pass them on to their own children. So why not create healthy habits that will not only improve one child’s life, but also break a cycle? Women have come so far the past decades, and every action we take to include a girl in sport is a step towards progress.

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