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The ‘Girl Effect’ in Action Sports for Development: The Case of the Female Practitioners of Skateistan

Part of the Global Culture and Sport Series book series (GCS)

Abstract

In this chapter we critically contextualize the rise in Action Sports for Development and Peace (ASDP) programs targeted at girls and young women within the ‘Girl Effect’. Despite our concerns about this trend, we offer the case of Skateistan to highlight the efforts employed by this award-winning organization to provide Afghan girls and young women with opportunities to participate in sport, education and employment, and particularly to consider the motivations, struggles and strategies being employed by international female staff of this organization. By creating space for the lived experiences and reflections of the international female staff who serve as practitioners in Afghanistan, we see that there are valuable lessons to be learned from those who reflexively work behind the scenes of Skateistan and navigate space between critique and hope. Ultimately, however, this chapter is a call for deeper critical considerations of the ‘girl effect’ in action sports, and the rise of ‘missionary feminism’ among female enthusiasts from the One Third World.

Keywords

  • Action Sport
  • Youth Development
  • Feminist Critique
  • Local Staff
  • International Staff

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Of course, the voices of local female staff and participants are also very important, and while they are not the focus of this chapter, they are part of an ongoing project by the first author.

  2. 2.

    There are a range of terms being used to refer to what was previously considered the First and Third Worlds. Some are using the terms Global North and Global South to refer to ‘two broad geopolitical groupings with the North representing richer “more advanced” economies and the South referring to the regions that were characterized in the 1970s as “Third World” nations’ (Shain, 2013, p. 12). Others are adopting the terms ‘One-Third World’ and ‘Two-Thirds World’ to help move away from the geographical nature of such terminology, and also to emphasize the proportion of the world that continues to be less economically developed, and thus with considerably poorer health, educational, employment and other social–economic–political opportunities for residents. In this chapter, we use the terms ‘One-Third World’ and ‘Two-Thirds World’ in an attempt to move away from geographical references to systemic poverty and to acknowledge that a large proportion of the world lives in social, political and economic conditions that constrain their life chances.

  3. 3.

    While few ASDP initiatives focused on girls and young women define their use of the term ‘empowerment’, here we draw upon the United Nations definition of women’s empowerment as consisting of five components: ‘women’s sense of self-worth; their right to have and to determine choices; their right to have access to opportunities and resources; their right to have the power to control their own lives, both within and outside the home; and their ability to influence the direction of social change to create a more just social and economic order, nationally and internationally’ (Guidelines on Women’s Empowerment, United Nations, n.d.).

  4. 4.

    Skateistan is currently engaging in various quantitative studies to ‘measure’ the impact of their programs. However, the organization is also investing in more qualitative Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) methods. For example, in July 2016 the authors of this chapter (with the support of Nida Ahmad) designed and ran a MEL training program with local staff of the Skateistan Johannesburg facility to co-develop culturally-appropriate and useful qualitative methods.

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Thorpe, H., Chawansky, M. (2016). The ‘Girl Effect’ in Action Sports for Development: The Case of the Female Practitioners of Skateistan. In: Thorpe, H., Olive, R. (eds) Women in Action Sport Cultures. Global Culture and Sport Series. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-45797-4_7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-45797-4_7

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