Nigerian footballer and President of We Play to Win Kasia Muoto is an international advocate for girls playing sports. Recently, she attended Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Global Diaspora Forum, a conference that celebrates the contribution of Diaspora communities to the United States while fostering Diaspora-centric partnership models and encouraging intra-Diaspora collaboration. Muoto, the only female speaker on sports at the conference, discussed the obstacles of using sports as a tool to empower young girls in developing nations, such as Nigeria. As research has shown, sports have the ability to bridge various ethnicities, genders, ages, and socio-economic classes. Thus, the role of sports in global development remains an important discussion and area for additional exploration.
Muoto listed nine facts while presenting her case for girls everywhere to play sports.
- Sports is associated with children’s general health and body esteem, healthy weight, popularity, quality of life and educational achievement – with females often deriving greater benefits from athletic participation than their male peers (Women’s Sports Foundation, 2008)
- Moderate levels of exercise and/or sports activity helps protect girls and women against depression
- Girls engaged in sports are less likely to smoke, drink or abuse drugs
- Girls in sports are less likely to experience unintended pregnancies, are more likely to graduate from secondary school
- Sports teaches our girls about teamwork, goal-setting and the pursuit of excellence in performance
- It allows girls to develop and practice leadership traits, and the ability to work under pressure
- For girls who have endured traumatic experiences, it helps them reclaim their lives, ownership of their bodies, and dignity
- Participation in sports reduces the risk of breast cancer, osteoporosis in women, amongst a host of other possible ailments
- Girls, particularly around ages 6-9, are equally as interested in sports as boys. Yet despite such growing evidence, our Nigerian girls are generally not afforded the degree of encouragement or opportunity extended to boys, to participate in sports.
It is clear that girls playing sports would be an asset for many nations, not just developing countries. Even within the United States, we’ve heard stories of children surpassing impoverished circumstances through the power of sports and its impact on other areas of life, including academics.
Both domestically and internationally, how can we get more girls to play sports? Speak on it.