THE BLOG

Let's Get Girls Active to Grow Confidence and Life Skills as They Journey Towards Gender Parity

08/03/2016 08:09 | Updated 08 March 2017
Doug Peters/Doug Peters

all women everywhere

Women have achieved so much over the years and International Women's Day is an incredibly important day to reflect on where we find ourselves; to celebrate as well as look forward at how men and women can all make more of a difference.

I recently heard that the World Economic Forum predicted in 2014 that it would take until the year 2095 to achieve global gender parity and wouldn't close entirely until 2133, 117 years from now. It sounds a long way off and in some ways is mind boggling, but in others it makes sense when you look at how long humans have been on the planet and how the positive changes for women have been relatively recent, such as women getting the vote. In some ways we are only at the beginning of a massive change for women. We are in the middle of an evolution which makes the work of women even more important in influencing, inspiring and leading by example in our bid to close the gender gap.

For me, an essential tool in bringing about these changes is physical activity. Sport and physical activity - dance in particular - has given me the confidence to be the best person I can be and I know it helps girls, in particular, to aim high and learn about themselves. This is what I hope to support and campaign for in my role as ambassador for the Youth Sport Trust, an independent charity which is devoted to changing young people's lives through sport.

It's sad that research has shown that there is a drop in teenage girls doing sport, even because they don't want to get sweaty, as it's a huge detriment to their health. It all seems to stem from living in a 'selfie generation' and we need to help girls, in particular, to stop being so narcissistic and representing a version of who they are online which is often far from the reality of who they are inside and how they really feel. A great way to do this is through sport and physical activity as it really helps you to get in touch with who you are and gain confidence enough to believe in yourself.

The Youth Sport Trust is enabling young people to do just that. In November I was lucky enough to have led a dance class as part of the charity's Girls Active programme, funded by Sport England in partnership with This Girl Can and Women in Sport. Girls Active is amazing and is encouraging those girls who may not be into mainstream or traditional sport to be inspired and instil good exercise habits for life. These girls then go back to school to inspire their peers to engage in alternative sports, like dance, and get moving.

This type of work is so important, I've realised even more so since becoming a mum. We live in an awesome generation with technology at our fingertips but we need to combat the negatives. I know what it's like to be a girl with health issues and anxiety - and that was in the days before social media - and I know what dance did for me and my confidence. I want to help give the gift of dance or to help young girls discover what their passionate about to keep them healthy.

We know that being physically active is important for the overall health and wellbeing of all young people. For girls this is especially true as we know the very things that prevent girls from getting involved - lack of confidence, low skill levels and poor body image - are the same things that can be improved by being physically active. I really believe that being active can go a long way in helping to achieve parity for women and men, particularly in how it can help our children to find ways to beat anxiety and depression as well as building essential life skills, such as team-building and communicating, which will help prepare them for life as an adult when pressures only get tougher.

We want our kids to be happy and to be able to explore their emotions through sport and the Youth Sport Trust is supporting children to find a sport or physical activity they are passionate about and not to be afraid to be fearlessly authentic. So this International Women's Day let's not make it a battle of the sexes but make it a battle for feeling good and continue to use sport to help build those attributes that are so important in building the foundations for a happy and fulfilling life.

HuffPost UK is running a month-long project in March called All Women Everywhere, providing a platform to reflect the diverse mix of female experience and voices in Britain today. Through blogs, features and video, we'll be exploring the issues facing women specific to their age, ethnicity, social status, sexuality and gender identity. If you'd like to blog on our platform around these topics, email ukblogteam@huffingtonpost.com with a summary of who you are and what you'd like to blog about