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MOVE Congress 2015 Highlight: Every Girl Can

A highlight of MOVE Congress 2015 was the “Reaching the hard-to-reach girls and women through effective campaigns and initiatives” topic, which featured the campaign for women taking the UK by storm, This Girl Can, and got the whole auditorium dancing by the end of the session.


Karen Creavin, Head of Wellbeing Services at Birmingham City Council, put forward the big challenge: women and girls to participate in sport and physical activity. Even though 75% of the women in the UK say they want to do more exercise, the combined effort of health and fitness industry has not succeeded in closing the 27% gap between the two genders’ activity levels.


Kerry McDonald, UK Director of Street Games and the Us Girls campaign, gave the Top 5 answers to the question:“Why are 47% of females inactive?”:


  • Too many other commitments
  • Too expensive
  • No one to go with
  • Not confident enough
  • Don’t know where to go to


Then he offered some easy, practical solutions:


  • Organise female-only activities
  • Make it more fun
  • Provide friendly coaches who they can recognise themselves in
  • Give them a ‘good deal’ – like buy one, get one free
  • Goodies – something they can hold in their hands, such as small rewards, sporty accessories, etc.


McDonald claims this insecurity and fear can be tackled by understanding the lives of these women, getting to know them better and offering what might push them towards an active life. They can also be encouraged to show leadership skills that make them feel confident.

This Girl Can is a national campaign developed by Sport England and by now has nearly 7000 partners working towards the same goals: to give women the positive message that they can achieve anything they put their heart into; to break the stereotypes of girls being weak, dependent on others and not “meant for physical activity”; and to guarantee the inclusion of those who are socially and physically excluded.


Shirin Mehmood, Birmingham’s This Girl Can campaign Lead officer in the UK, answered another important question: “What’s in it for me?”, giving a personal example:


  • She pursued her passion of dance and became a Zumba instructor
  • Became more confident: “I am not a model, but I am a Zumba instructor! And when I’m leading a session, people come to me and tell me I am great… You should just do what you love, that’s it!”, Shirin says.
  • Gained more skills and is achieving the things she wants
  • Engages and socialises with others
  • Doesn’t sense judgement from others – she knows they are all in the same position
  • Enjoys the sense of unity


Mehmood also shared successful practices leading to the activation of women and girls:


  • Start at school: educate children to be active and provide well-trained teachers
  • Don’t call it “sport” – make physical activity more fun and less intimidating
  • Build friendships: in a group of people the most important thing is the feeling of being part of a team
  • Invite famous people to provide sessions
  • Take them outside: outdoor workouts can be fun, diverse and fresh, and they really don’t have to be vigorous
  • Organise sports camps and get boys and girls to practice together for 3 or 5 days
  • Organise FREE recreational activities just for women: Zumba and Pilates classes, Yoga, etc.
  • Motivate them to start with something very easy, so they don’t face failure at the first step
  • Especially when the group is small, don’t just meet to practice, but get together as friends: each of us needs that other person to socialise with
  • Organise various activities: for example, exercise for mums with babies, exercise in water, exercise for women with specific conditions, such as Down syndrome
  • And remember: it’s not about the sport – it’s about who the trainer is


When we asked Ms. Mehmood what the future plans for “This Girl Can” are, she shared several ideas, such as reaching senior women, expanding the campaign to other countries and targeting mothers. But what she highlighted was the need for training trainers, especially when it comes to working with women with different backgrounds, and also – listening to the market because this is what a successful campaign should do.


Meet Shirin:


By Teodora Dragomirova, ISCA

Photos by Georgi Staykov

Video by Jérôme Guiraud