Partners' Female Sport-for-Development Program Empowers Women in the Americas

Krysia Sikora, A Ganar Intern

On June 23, 1972, Title IX was enacted, revolutionizing the world of female athletes. Title IX is an education amendment that ensures that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program.”

Although the amendment was not specifically targeted at the world of sport, Title IX has had a drastic impact on the number of opportunities for women in the field of athletics.  Since 1972, the number of female athletes participating in high school and college sports has increased from 310,000 to more than 3,373,000.

Although female participation in sports is common in countries such as the United States, sport remains an exclusively male domain in much of the developing world, both reflecting and perpetuating gender inequality within these countries. 

The United Nations recognizes that sport can be used as a means to promote gender equality.  In particular, sport instills self-confidence in girls.  It is a place where they can take up leadership positions and be outspoken, skills they can use in everyday life.  Furthermore, when community members see girls achieve in sport, they often recognize their potential to achieve in other domains, opening up more occupational opportunities for girls in the future.

Partners’ Vencedoras program understands the importance of women participating in sports.  A female-only version of Partners’ A Ganar program, Vencedoras uses sport to teach life skills that can be translated into the workplace. The program also includes vocational training and practical internship experience to help girls and young women expand their job opportunities.

Vencedoras was first implemented in 2008 in Rio, Brazil with funding from the Nike Foundation. The program ran until 2012 and reached over 1,200 girls and young women. Danny Mariela Apaza Valdez, 27, is one of many participants who were attracted to the Vencedoras program for its use of sport and the opportunity for personal and professional growth. Apaza enrolled in a culinary internship following her sports and vocational training.

“I love soccer, and I joined the Vencedoras program to get rid of my fears and gain confidence,” Apaza said. “My husband and my family support me. I chose the cooking classes at Manq’a because I want to open a small restaurant with my family after completing the program.”

The experience in Brazil indicated that the sport facilitators made the largest impact on participants, indicating the importance positive role models play in increasing female empowerment.

"At first I was very shy and was afraid of what my colleagues would think of me,” Alanna Silva, a Vencedoras participant from Brazil, said. “But the facilitators helped me work on self-confidence. When I compare myself from when I started Vencedoras and now, I'd say that I am a different person: more secure, confident, resolute, determined, and positive."

Silva set several long-term goals for herself following Vencedoras including attending law school, purchasing a house, and purchasing a car for her father. Vencedoras taught young women like Apaza and Silva that dreams have no limits and one must work hard for those aspirations. The program gave them the tools to become career-oriented women and choose their own futures. 

In 2015, Partners received additional funding from CAF-Development Bank of Latin America and the U.S. Embassy in Bolivia to bring Vencedoras to El Alto, Bolivia and plans to reach 450 young women over two years. A group of 200 young women have already started the program, and are currently finishing up their vocational training in one of the following areas: baking, hairstyling, garment-making, soccer coaching, community project management, and university preparation. Although the Vencedoras participants have yet to start their internships, the young women have already voiced the impact that the program is having on their lives.