On 16-17 July 2022, the Commonwealth of Dominica Scholars Alumni Association (CDCSAA) collaborated with the Dominican Football Association (DFA) to deliver the event, ‘Girls with Goals’, for the National Under 15 (U-15) Girls Football Team. The event aimed to promote equality, diversity and representation of girls in sport.

The team trains every week to prepare for football tournaments organised by groups such as the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF). Despite taking part in competitive games, awareness and support for the team nationally is low, which has impacted the confidence the girls have in their ability and their willingness to participate.

Making football for women and girls a priority

Whilst sport is an important platform to promote gender equality and empower women and girls, female participation remains much lower than male participation. According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, by the age of 14, girls are dropping out of sports at two times the rate of boys. Reasons for this include lack of access to sport opportunities and facilities, cost, personal safety, social and cultural barriers, and a lack of positive female role models.

Around the world, football is one of the most popular sports, with an increasing number of girls and women also taking part. However, in Dominica, girls interested in playing football face challenges such as limited public awareness, a lack of strong leadership, and a lack of education on the importance of gender equality in sport more generally. There is also an imbalance of funds allocated towards women’s football compared to men’s football, which limits the frequency and quality of training.

Therefore, it is important to make women and girls’ football a priority through awareness events, collaborative partnerships, and increased funding.

Girls with Goals: the event

Through the ‘Girls with Goals’ event, CDCSAA sought to highlight the positive impact football can have on young girls’ lives, to deliver key skills training for personal development, and to raise awareness and support for the team.

The event took place over two days and was held at Patrick John Football House, Bath Estate, Dominica. Day one, which was organised through the Alumni Community Engagement Fund, brought together 25 members of the U-15 team, aged between 11 years to 15 years. As a team, the girls took part in a workshop designed to explore barriers to increased female representation in sport and identify ways to utilise sport as an avenue to promote gender equality. It also provided opportunities for the girls to discuss their personal development needs both on and off the field to succeed as female athletes in Dominica and globally.

The workshop opened with an icebreaker activity followed by a range of sessions facilitated by members of CDCSAA. Topics covered included hygiene and self-care, leadership and role model skills, teamwork, building self-esteem, and public speaking. The topic areas were identified by the football team management as particularly important to support the growth of team members and prepare them for upcoming matches.

Alongside the workshop sessions, guest speaker Annie St. Luce, Child Abuse Prevention Coordinator at the Social Welfare Division, delivered a talk on safety whilst travelling abroad and dealing with peer pressure and bullying. Through the workshop, participants had the opportunity to share their experiences of these issues and take part in team building exercises to develop their confidence as young female athletes.

Following the workshop, the girls were asked to share key takeaways and learnings from the day.

‘I learned that to be a good leader you should have good communication skills and self-confidence.’ – Participant

‘The session on Saturday was very informative, fun and timely. The information provided was relevant and will be quite useful when we travel personally…. It’s good that people can take time out to help youth, especially young girls like myself.’ – Participant

‘One of the sessions that really stood out to me was on self-confidence because I discovered some tips that can help me improve on this aspect of my life.’ – Participant

Day two of the event, funded by other means, included a football fair with activities for the wider community, including a football match and a fundraising activity.

Encouraging team spirit post-workshop

The team were provided with Girls with Goals jerseys to wear during and post-workshop to foster a sense of team spirit, confidence, and promote gender equality in football.

Equipped with new skills and team spirit, the girls continue to participate in friendly regional matches such as the Jewels of the Caribbean Girls’ U-15 tournament from 12 – 22 August 2022 where they played against teams from other Caribbean countries including Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Dominica, Antigua, and St. Kitts.