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Three ways playing sport promotes gender-equality

Asia-Pacific is home to more than 4.5 billion people. Around half are female. Despite global initiatives and government policies to promote gender equality, women and girls in the region still face significant challenges.

Over 40 per cent of women in Southeast Asia and 60 per cent of women in the Western Pacific have experienced gender-based violence and women make up less than 20% of national parliament seats in the region.

Using sport as a platform ChildFund Sport for Development program, Pass It Back, challenges gender stereotypes and equips young girls and women with important leadership and life skills to reach their full potential.

  1. It creates an environment that includes equal participation

Pass It Back is committed to achieving 50% female participation at all levels of the program and fostering an environment where both male and female participants can thrive.

To date, 55% of players are girls and 64% of coaches are women.

“I really like Pass It Back because it focuses on gender equality and includes the participation of girls and women,” said Febriana, one of the first female coaches in Timor-Leste. “What I would like to change in Timor-Leste is to give opportunities for girls and women so they can develop themselves and become leaders.”

Tu, a male coach from Vietnam, also shared his thoughts: “Women and girls in Vietnam sometimes have fewer opportunities to play sport, but through Pass It Back, both girls and boys can play rugby and learn life skills about gender equality and treating others without gender discrimination. I really appreciate this.”

2. It promotes female leadership through sport

Huyen is a coach group leader. She is responsible for managing other coaches in her community. Huyen said: “Before joining the project, I was just a farmer who stayed at home to take care of children and do my family duties. I would never have had such opportunities if I hadn’t participated.”

In the Pass It Back program, 17 out of 26 coach group leaders are female. Young women are supported and encouraged to develop and practice their leadership skills and to take leadership roles in their communities. This can mean organising competitions, leading teams at international tournaments, taking the role of trainers or assistant trainers during coach training or participating in international youth workshops.

“Before joining Pass It Back I thought women could only stay home taking care of household chores, but the program made me change and helped me realise I can also be a leader, just like men,” said Cuong, a female coach from Vietnam, who is now managing other coaches in her area.

3. It supports young people to learn about gender equality in their community.

Learning about gender expectations and norms is just one part of the Pass It Back program. This provides young people with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to challenge traditional gender roles and expectations in a respectful way.

“Before I learned more about gender, men told me that women couldn’t do anything, that they couldn’t be a leader, that they can only be a mother and take care of the children and do the chores at home, and I believed them. This discouraged me from studying hard because I thought that even if I worked hard, I couldn’t get a job anyway and would just end up taking care of my children as people said.

“However, now I’ve learnt that these beliefs are social expectations, and I don’t have to follow them,” said Larmoua, a female coach in Laos.

Khuyen, a male coach in Vietnam, added: “I now believe there is no limit to what men and women can and can’t do and that they deserve equal opportunities to do whatever they want.”

This project is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).

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