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Fast and Female: empowering girls through sport

The Canadian charity is working to break down the barriers for girls in sport

Last year, the organization Canadian Women and Sport released a report that found that one in three girls drop out of sport by late adolescence. By comparison, the dropout rate for teenage boys (age 16-18) is only 1 in 10. The report also found that sport participation rates for Canadian girls decline steadily from childhood to adolescence, and as many as 62 per cent of girls never participate in a sport at all. Fast and Female is a Canadian charity that is looking to change those statistics. We spoke the founder of the organization, Olympic gold medalist  Chandra Crawford, and Communications manager Dominique Bouchard to learn how Fast and Female is empowering the next generation of women.

Photo: Marten Massel

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How did the idea for Fast and Female begin?

The idea for Fast and Female was born while I was babysitting an 8-year-old girl named Emily. She casually mentioned that ‘it doesn’t seem like being a girl is very fun. They don’t even skateboard’. For Emily, it was as simple as she hadn’t seen it being done, so to her it didn’t seem possible. She hadn’t seen a woman who was a professional skateboarder. For many other girls, these barriers extend to never seeing your race, sexual identity, religion, physical disabilities and other parts of your identity represented in sport.”

Crawford adds that having role models who look like you serve as inspiration to dream bigger and try new things, and keeping girls in sport can empower them for life and give them leadership, teamwork and resiliency skills.

Fast and Female exists for this reason; to keep self-identified girls aged 8-14 healthy and active in sports. We strive to do this by hosting national events and programs in collaboration with community partners, where girls can meet REAL (Relatable, Empowered, Active Leaders) Role Models from within their communities.”

What’s holding girls back from participating in sports?

Bouchard and Crawford highlight the 2020 Canadian Women and Sport report, which determined a number of contributing factors, including:

  • low self-confidence
  • negative body image
  • perceived lack of skill and
  • not being welcomed
Photo: Marten Massel

Fast and Female is working hard to reverse these trends by engaging with girls to identify how to create a sense of social belonging, prioritizing their mental and physical health and providing relatable role models from within their own communities.

How has the pandemic affected the organization?

“As a result of the pandemic, we hosted our annual Summit virtually for the very first time,” says Crawford and Bouchard. “Though we missed being able to hug everyone, hosting a virtual Summit allowed us to break some incredible barriers. Our registration was open to national attendance for the first time, we were able to provide recordings to those with conflicting schedules and through our partners’ support, we were able to provide 232 subsidized tickets to those facing financial barriers to register.”

They also launched their website’s Resources page, which includes downloadable activity sheets and links for initiatives from their REAL Role Models and sister organizations. Thankfully, they were able to pivot 4 of our pre-scheduled events to be hosted virtually.

“We even launched a brand new program, our Girl, You Got This — Run/Walk/Wheel, encouraging our community to get moving,” says Crawford. “The girls loved the opportunity to interact with our REAL Role Models through the event’s private Facebook group.”

Photo / Marten Massel

What are the future plans for Fast and Female?

“Our ultimate vision is harnessing the power of sports to forge a new generation of women leaders,” says Bouchard and Crawford.

Since their first event in 2005, Fast and Female has been able to empower 19,533 girls across Canada by connecting them with over 700 REAL Role Models. Still, they recognize that the inequalities and systemic barriers for girls and women reach far beyond sport culture, and they affect racialized and marginalized populations more than others.

Our mission can’t be realized until we address these injustices and oppression and make meaningful change,” says Crawford.

If you want to get involved in the organization, you can donate to their events and programming, or you can apply to become a REAL Role Model by clicking here.

RELATED: 62 per cent of Canadian adolescent girls are not participating in sport

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