As the world’s leading female sport, netball has, and will continue to, positively change the lives of women and girls around the world.
With six hundred million girls growing up in developing countries according to the United Nations, the role of netball as a tool for empowerment is more important than ever before.
International Women’s Day today is an opportunity to reflect on how netball can be, and is being, used as a vehicle for social, cultural and economic change by inspiring and encouraging a community of women and girls that expands over 80 countries and an estimated 20 million teammates.
While netball, as a uniquely female sport, offers women and girls a safe space to develop skills and knowledge that translate to their everyday lives, it’s also helping to change perceptions of women’s capabilities.
By promoting confident, strong, skilled, talented leaders on, and off the court, netball can challenge the cultural norms that prevent gender equality.
Utilising netball, life-skills and health education to empower young women from disadvantaged communities in Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai, The Naz Foundation’s Goal program encourages financial independence and further education, and provides employment opportunities.
According to the United Nations, the alarming figure that women contribute two-thirds of the world’s work, yet earn less than 10 per cent of the world’s wages, highlights the importance of women’s economic empowerment in contributing to gender equality.
Netball Australia is proud to provide technical support to The Naz Foundation through coaching, resources and mentoring to assist in the delivery of the program.
“I’m a young Indian girl; I’m not powerless, I’m not exploited and I’m not anaemic. I’m a young girl, a change agent and a leader because of sport,” The Naz Foundation (India) Trust Program Officer, Pallavi Gaikwad, told the Clinton Global Initiative AGM.
Sharing the stage with the likes of the President of the United States of America Barack Obama, musician Bono, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Pallavi delivered a speech that highlighted the change she has seen in herself as a result of the ‘Goal’ program and her involvement in netball.
“Sport is an effective strategy to empower girls; it gives them the opportunity to not just talk about challenging gender roles, using their voice and owning their body, but actually practicing and living it,” Pallavi said.
“How to pivot was important (in netball), how to change direction in life is a lesson that will last beyond my days on court.”
Pallavi has not only become the first girl in her family to travel overseas, but she is now an accomplished coach, presenter and role model for the girls she teaches and her community.
Netball Australia has also been working with the national federations of the Cook Islands, PNG, Tonga, Samoa and Vanuatu, through the Australian Government’s Pacific Sports Partnership (PSP) program.
The PSP program aims to build the capacity of these organisations to offer quality netball activities that contribute to positive health and development outcomes.
“Netball offers leadership and decision making opportunities for girls and women, in particular through specialised skills in coaching, umpiring, training, league organisation and club governance,” Netball Australia’s International Development Manager Olivia Philpott said. “It offers the space for women to mentor and support other women and girls.”
After growing up in a disadvantaged resettlement community in Port Vila, Grateol Sakul has experienced first-hand the benefits of netball, after gaining full-time employment under Netball Australia’s programs in Vanuatu.
Sakul has designed and implemented netball programs in her own community, after gaining the self-assurance to be able to negotiate with her local chiefs.
“The netball centre is where I feel at home,” Saul said. “Netball gave me the confidence just to stand, to be who I am and to lead the way for other girls to be a role model for them.
“I think netball has changed me, it has helped me find who I really am and opened the person inside of me because I was shy and keeping myself low and waiting for the right time to speak, but now it’s like netball has given me the opportunity.
“Whenever I see something bad or something wrong I get to stand up and speak up for other ladies or other people.”
Women and girls are change agents; investing in them will not only lead to them building a better future for themselves, but for their children, their families and their communities.
Before taking the court this weekend, Netball Australia would like you to recognise the impact netball has had on your life, and how you can, and already are, using netball to inspire girls and women to become champions for gender equality, here, and around the world.