Sports Are Not Created Equal

Sports are proven to pave the way to peace and development. But for many people, access to sports is restricted or nonexistent. It wasn’t until 2012 that women had delegates in all Olympic sports. But women don’t need equal representation to dominate: In the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, Team USA won the most medals, and both years American women received more medals than American men. Want to read more about the history of women conquering the Olympics?

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So are female athletes in the US magically more talented? No, of course not. The main reason for their Olympic success can be traced back to the creation of Title IX, a law that says schools must treat girls and boys equally with regards to all programs funded by the federal government, including sports programs. Sarah Du started playing basketball at a young age in her hometown in Oregon, United States and her international school in Beijing, China. But she noticed over and over again that she was the only girl on the basketball court. Sports empowered her with confidence and made her determined to bring her love for basketball to girls in China. Wondering what all of this has to do with peacebuilding? Hint: Sports helped her to become a leader in her community.

Big sporting events earn huge profits through forced labor but the problems between sports and money goes even deeper. Women may have the ability to play more sports now, but they are still paid hardly anything compared to their male counterparts -- who are literally paid thousands of times more. Neymar is a football (American soccer) player for the French club Paris Saint-Germain. His 2017 salary was 36.8 million EUR or as much as 1,693 female players in France, Germany, England, USA, Sweden, Australia and Mexico combined.

The divide between men and women in sports is huge. This boils down to one crucial factor: confidence. Boys are taught to scrape their knees and be tough, but girls are taught to be careful and perfect. These harmful gender roles are keeping girls from their potential. One study found that 50 percent of girls are held back by fear of failing in puberty, and that fear keeps them from learning perseverance. One ad campaign is determined to change this mindset and wants to encourage girls to “Always” keep going.

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Women around the world are showcasing their power through sports. Take Hajar Abulfaz as an example: She’s an Afghani activist and athlete who played soccer to show others that women are powerful. Not only did she play on Afghanistan's national football (American soccer) team for almost a decade, she also made time to get her medical degree and start her own nonprofit to empower girls through sports. Want to read more about this inspiring athlete, doctor, and advocate?

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