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Ensuring women and girls enjoy all the benefits of sport is one of the key focus areas of Team Up. / Credit: Oceania Rugby / Team Up
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ADDRESSING THE ‘PLAY GAP’

Ensuring women and girls enjoy all the benefits of sport is one of the key focus areas of Team Up, and a specific focus or a cross-cutting theme for all of our programs.

But why is this so important? Around the world, girls and women face unique challenges to participating in sport. By extension, this means they are often excluded from the benefits of being involved in sport including the friendships, joy, freedom, and competitive spirit that many people associate with sport. 

Beyond that, sport can provide wider ranging social, psycho-social, health and economic benefits, which girls and women currently have less access to. This inequality is known as the ‘play gap’.

As Team Up Social Inclusion Specialist Roshika Deo explains, in the context of the Pacific countries where Team Up runs, girls and women often face specific barriers to participating in sport.

“The burden of caregiving and household responsibilities limits the time available for girls and women to devote to sports, especially with the increase in frequency of natural disasters in the Pacific region where, in such humanitarian contexts, the burden of responsibility increases for girls and women,” Deo said.

“Another barrier is the often-high prevalence of sexual and domestic violence, meaning there is anxiety among many Pacific island families about this risk, resulting in girls and young women not being supported or allowed to attend after-school practice or sports activities for safety reasons. 

“Transport accessibility, especially for girls and women from lower socio-economic backgrounds and those with disabilities, compounded with rape anxiety, further complicates the ability of girls and women to be able to participate in sport in the same way boys and men can. This can affect their training, performance and networking opportunities that stem from sport, thus limiting their development.”

Team Up believes that everyone deserves the opportunity to be actively involved in sport in whatever capacity they choose. The program is committed to addressing the play gap at all levels – from the grassroots to the boardroom. Through Team Up, sport organisations will be supported to become more safe, inclusive and accessible, as this is a prerequisite to enabling more equitable opportunities for girls, women and other excluded groups. 

"Inclusion is not only about making room in the existing sports ecosystem for people who have been historically excluded,” explains Meg Smith, Deputy Executive Director of Women Win, which partners in the delivery of Team Up with GHD.

“Inclusion is also about re-thinking sport and how we're organised, re-imagining how we deliver sport programs, and thinking about how we can transform the way sport creates safe and welcoming spaces for all. We use action-oriented tools with organisations that support them to apply a gender lens across all their structures and programs in order to drive meaningful and sustainable change."

Team Up facilitates partnerships between sport and non-sport organisations to draw on a wide range of expertise in the design and delivery of programs.

One of these is the Volley4Change program in Vanuatu, delivered in partnership by Vanuatu Volleyball Federation (VVF), CARE Australia and Vanuatu Paralympic Committee. 

As VVF president Debbie Masauvakalo explains, Volley4Change uses volleyball-themed activities to empower women off the court, as well as on it. A key focus is addressing violence again women. Vanuatu has one of the highest rates of prevalence in the world, with 60 per cent of women aged 15 to 49 years experiencing some form of partner violence in their lifetime (UNICEF, 2015).

“One of our programs sees us partner with the Vanuatu-Australia Policing and Justice Program to combine volleyball activities with education sessions about Vanuatu’s Family Protection Act. This helps women in the community to better understand the Act, what it means, why we need it, and how it can help reduce violence against women,” she said.

“Participants in these sessions have said they would now feel more confident reporting incidents of violence to police, because they have interacted with police during the volleyball program and have a clearer understanding of how law and justice plays a part in helping to reduce violence.”

The Volley4Change program in Vanuatu uses volleyball-themed activities to empower women on and off the court. / Credit: Aaron Kearney, ABC International Development
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One of the non-sport organisations involved in Team Up is the UN Women Fiji Multi-Country Office, which is a partner in the Get Into Rugby Plus program in Fiji and Samoa.

“Whether it’s sports, faith, the workplace, or education, UN Women, through the Pacific Partnership to End Violence Against Women and Girls program, is committed to working together with partners to mobilise communities to reject violence and support the rights and equality of women and girls,” said UN Women Fiji Multi-Country Office’s Ending Violence Against Women Programme Specialist, Abigail Erikson. 

“These are challenging spaces to work in but if change is to happen, all partners must keep persevering – strategically, boldly, and together. Only then can we ensure that violence and harassment have no place in our communities, our homes, our schools, workplaces, and sports clubs.” 

ON AND OFF THE FIELD

Beyond creating opportunities for women and girls to participate in sport, Team Up programs also seek to support other sporting pathways for women and girls, such as in leadership, governance and administration roles, or as coaches and match officials.

Our programs aim to address gender equity through multiple approaches, with many programs working across several areas. Examples include:


Creating female role models for people with disabilities:
Inclusive GymBad in PNG
PNG Rugby Union Inclusion Impact Program

Creating more opportunities for women in off-field roles:
Nauru Rugby Union Inclusion Impact Program

Promoting female leadership through a sport setting:
AFL Vanuatu Plei Footy Blo Jenis
Basketball for Good in Fiji and PNG
Healthy Nanas and Disability Cricket in Samoa
One Netball Samoa
Tapuitea Inclusive Sports Program in Samoa

Promoting gender equality through a sport-based curriculum:
Cricket for Good in Fiji
Just Play Plus in Fiji, PNG, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu

Promoting positive attitudes towards gender inclusion through a sporting setting:
Let’s Swim in Vanuatu
One Netball Tonga
Volley4Change in Vanuatu

Providing menstrual and/or sexual and reproductive health and rights training:
Hook In4 Health in Fiji and PNG
Kicks 4 Kokoda in PNG
One Netball PNG

Supporting female journalists in the male-dominated world of sports media:
Women in News and Sport (WINS) in the Asia-Pacific 

Using sport to address gender-based violence: 
Appeal Against Violence in Vanuatu
Get Into Rugby Plus in Fiji and Samoa
League for Life in Fiji, Samoa and Tonga

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