Katja Iverson, CEO of Women Deliver, in the opening address: "Why is Women Deliver hosting a sports symposium? ...Because sports is directly connected to women’s health and connecting issues like nutrition, equality, education. [This symposium is the] need to work across sectors and play with new teammates. Getting girls in the game has transformative impact making them more confident, healthy and empowered. ...Healthy, strong, and empowered girls are the heart of sustainable development."

Susan Ngongi, UNICEF Country Representative to Ghana: “Too often, girls in poor and marginalized communities around the world face futures of limited opportunity, not to mention hardships like gender-based violence and early marriage.

"Sport provides an opportunity to introduce skills. UNICEF and partners use sport to promote healthy development. Sport and homework clubs motivate girls to stay in school. By tearing down the barriers that keep girls from participating in sport, they learn confidence. This is a gift they take with them throughout their lives.

Playing sport opens girls’ eyes –- first to their own potential, and then to all of the barriers they are ready to break down.”

Fact: Only 35% of women age 15-19 participated in sports compared to 65% of boys the same age. This disparity is mirrored in coaching, too. 

Moya Dodd, Asian Football Confederation and FIFA Executive Committee: There are 300 million in the world who play football today.

"Sport gave me what I hope it will give your son and daughters: Good health and an active lifestyle, lessons of teamwork... it taught me how to deal with setbacks and injuries and injustices, and plenty of lessons in the value of hard work.

"[For young girls, sport gives] positive, powerful role models they’ve been less exposed to.

"Sport is also a place where powerful people gather. There are 209 FIFA-member countries. There are 192 countries in the UN. If you can make a difference in sport, it’s a key leverage point to make a difference in the rest of society."

Joel Spicer, President of the Micronutrient Initiative: "[In sport] when we succeed we point to our diet. And when don’t success we point to our diet. Imagine if earning, learning or playing were struggle. Where malnutrition keeps you stuck on the sidelines of life. 300 million children go to bed hungry every day. 160 million children are stunted. Investing in child nutrition is critical. They are our future."

All girls can play! the inspiring message from One World Play Project.

Key takeaways from Girl Power in Play smart talks by Alana Glass, Forbes SportsMoney contributor and Girl Power in Play moderator

  1. If you’re always fighting you’re always going to lose. 
  2. Every girl deserves nutrition. Our bodies need the right fuel.
  3. Shoot to score, find your voice.
  4. Play brings joy and relief. It allows us to see a different future.
  5. If you punch hard you can overcome your challenges.
  6. If we reflect we can act. If we apply play our communities will thrive and have a better future. 

Cynthia Coredo, BoxGirls Kenya: "Sport gives girls a chance to dream of opportunities and make choices..." 

Pamela Sharma, One Goal youth ambassador

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Emma Highwood, Head of Women's Football at Football Federation Australia: "In Australia, because there is an opportunity to play and football is so accessible to play there is an increase in girls playing. Football is a sport that can be played by the whole family. Boys and girls can play together.

"So, why are girls playing and why are they not playing? Reasons why they're playing: Friends, encouragement, social. There are different girls – some want girls only environment, some want to play with boys. So we expand the choices for girls. Also there are girls who play during school. So we develop the grassroots and we give it promotion and visibility.

"We don’t just talk about girl role models but girl heroes. [We ask] What would our fans and girls engage with? There is not one type of footballer. So we don’t just think about one type of hero. Girls connect to different kinds of heroes.

"We assume in Aus is that everyone has the right to play. So the next challenge is how do we unlock more investment for girls in the game? For us, it’s about developing the whole game – boys side, girls side, boys fans, girls fans – football is stronger when we develop the whole game.  

"At the grassroots level we want every club to have a girls team. And making sure girls are more visible in the grassroots game. Broadcasts and seeing girls on TV is really important. Girls need to see their role models playing on TV like it’s a regular thing.

"We know what the barriers are… now we need to start working and adjust. Every girl is different. You can’t take a program and drop it in somewhere else. You have to take principles and be willing to adjust that over time."

Session notes - Nutrition and Sport: A winning pair (hosted by One Goal and GAIN Canada)

  • 79% of children under-5 are zinc deficient in South Asia.
  • 153.5 million children in the world haven't grown to the height they were meant to.

There are causes of maternal and child mortality that are preventable with good nutrition.

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There are multiple burdens of malnutrition impacting girls involvement with sport: Under nutrition keeps girls from participating in sport. Over nutrition (obesity) and an unhealthy lifestyle later in life continues to keep them out of the game.

Session panel: nutritionists, programs, youth, yoga, cooking:

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Panelist Gillian Mandich: "Food isn't *just* food for your body because your body isn't a Ferrari."

Lyndsay Hayhurst, PhD: "We can't expect girls to be agents of change if we don't support them structurally."

Minky Worden, Human Rights Watch: "Sport is a human right... Can we use this moment to crack open the door for girls sports? To show that we can and the sky doesn’t fall. Now is the time!"

"They come for skateboarding. They stay for education." Skateistan is opening new doors for girls in Afghanistan


One Goal, Women Deliver, UNICEF, Right to Play, GAIN Canada, and Girl Power in Play partners call on national governments, donors, and international organizations to:

  • Incorporate sport programs into strategies to address gender inequality
  • Increase funding for girls’ sport programs
  • Support research on the impact of girls’ involvement in sport, particularly on their health 

Read more posts about getting girls in the game: 

Read News Hour's recap of Girl Power in Play.