Introducing Sport, Gender and Development: A Critical Intersection

Lyndsay M.C. Hayhurst (York University, Canada)
Holly Thorpe (University of Waikato, New Zealand)
Megan Chawansky (Otterbein University, USA)

Sport, Gender and Development

ISBN: 978-1-83867-866-1, eISBN: 978-1-83867-863-0

Publication date: 10 December 2021


Hayhurst, L.M.C., Thorpe, H. and Chawansky, M. (2021), "Introducing Sport, Gender and Development: A Critical Intersection", Sport, Gender and Development (Emerald Studies in Sport and Gender), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 1-32.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021 Lyndsay M.C. Hayhurst, Holly Thorpe and Megan Chawansky. Published by Emerald Publishing Limited. This work is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of this work (for both commercial and non-commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and authors. The full terms of this licence may be seen at


This work is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of this work (for both commercial and non-commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and authors. The full terms of this licence may be seen at

In recent years, sport has demonstrated its enormous capacity to propel women and girls' empowerment. It mobilizes the global community and speaks to youth. It unites across national barriers and cultural differences. It is a powerful tool to convey important messages in a positive and celebratory environment – often to mass audiences. In addition, it teaches women and girls the values of teamwork, self-reliance and resilience; has a multiplier effect on their health, education and leadership development; contributes to self-esteem, builds social connections, and challenges harmful gender norms.

(UN Women, 2021b)

Gender emerges at the intersection of the physical and the social, and this is precisely where sport also resides. The embodied nature of both gender and sport suggests possibilities for intertwining the two for development interventions […] Seeking to empower females through sport is somewhat paradoxical given that the world of sport can be a bastion for male privilege and power, an important arena for asserting a particular kind of male dominance over women (and some men), as well as furthering Euro-American hegemony vis-à-vis the Global South.

(Saavedra, 2009, p. 124)

The abovementioned quotes – excerpts drawn from publications written almost 10 years apart – tell part of the sport, gender and development “story” since the sport for development (SFD) field was formally institutionalized in the 1990s (Darnell, Field, & Kidd, 2019). Despite recent claims by the UN Women (2021b, para. 4) that “sport has demonstrated its enormous capacity to propel women and girls' empowerment,” the development sector has not yet provided a multifaceted understanding of the relationship between sport and gender. Our book responds to this lacuna with the goal of carving out, and unpacking, the sport/gender/development nexus. We do this by critically investigating the use of sport as a tool to achieve local, domestic and international GAD objectives – a term we refer to throughout this book as sport, gender and development (SGD).

SGD is part and parcel of the broader sport for development and peace (SDP) “movement” – a coalescence of entities, activists, practitioners, volunteers, policy-makers and scholars who identify/question/(critically) examine sport as a (potential) contributor to development on a variety of levels – including within and across local, national and global scales (Kidd, 2008; Wilson, 2012). However, over the last decade, there have been considerable debates about the scope, coherency and significance of SDP (Lindsey & Grattan, 2012; Sherry, Schulenkorf, Seal, Nicholson, & Hoye, 2017). Questions abound as to whether, in fact, SDP is a “cohesive” social movement; and if so, whether this “movement” utilizes sport – or rather, and more loosely, takes up play, movement, leisure, recreation and/or physical culture (Hayhurst & McSweeney, 2020). Crucially – and for the purposes of our book – it seems particularly apt to contemplate the ways that “gender” and “sex” have been taken up by, exploited and/or (re)produced by the SDP movement. Indeed, we contend a more textured and nuanced understanding of SDP is necessary; and in this book, we suggest that a parsed out and increasingly institutionalized SGD movement is indeed on the rise, one that compels its very own field of scholarly inquiry. This book is our response to this need to critically explore the rise of SGD within the broader SDP and development movements, and to offer feminist theoretical, methodological and practical interventions across local, regional, national, and global scales.

This introductory chapter consists of five parts. Firstly, we offer a brief history of the relationship between gender and development. Following this, we detail the rise of SGD, and the impact of the “Girl Effect” on scholarship, policy and practice in the field. Thirdly, we introduce the book project and clarify our use of key concepts that run throughout. Fourthly, we provide an overview of the book, detailing the seven chapters that explore a range of issues across five different countries, including gender-based violence (GBV), environmental degradation, economic sustainability, the rise of informal, action sports for gender development, the politics of knowledge production in Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (MEL), the embodied experiences of women working in SGD, and the ethics and risks of SGD campaigns featuring girls and young women from the Global South. Finally, we conclude by offering suggestions for future possibilities and challenges for feminist research, programming, policy and practice in SGD.

Gender and Development: A Brief History

From the early 1970s to mid-1980s, “Women in Development” (WID) was positioned as various actions taken – vis-à-vis policy, programming, and other mechanisms – through which to include women in the development sector. This era was primarily focused on promoting women's economic contributions and income-generating activities (Sweetman, 2015). Here, Ester Boserup's infamous book, Woman's Role in Economic Development (1970), demonstrated how technological advances (e.g., the plow) contributed to the marginalization of women's labor, leaving them with low productivity and marginal status subsistence farming, opposing the view that modernization was beneficial for women. However, the limitations of this approach were clearly evident by the inability of WID to directly challenge patriarchy.

Hereafter, Women and Development (WAD) emerged, a slightly more radical approach which highlighted the challenges involved in integrating women into patriarchal institutions and practices, and centered more on women-only projects. However, the WAD approach failed to account for the productive and reproductive roles of WID (Marchand, 2009). Programs targeting women exclusively, particularly those that were economically driven, suddenly meant that WAD “became nearly synonymous with microcredit programs, which fit the pro-market approach and had the added advantage that, as studies showed, women spent more of the money they earned on children's nutrition, health, and education than men” (Jaquette, 2017, p. 246). Said differently, this era was marked by a consistent instrumentalist purview grounded by the “market logic” that equated economic activity with women's empowerment (Shepherd, 2016).

In the late 1980s, the field shifted again to focus more on gender and development (GAD) – whereby “women” was replaced with “gender” – in order to broaden and incorporate women of color and feminists based in the Global South, who felt that there were notable distinctions between the classifications of “woman” and “man” (Harcourt, 2018; Marchand, 2009). This move to “gender” was meant to result in an overall reframing of the field in terms of recognizing the social construction of gender and was critical in pushing the GAD field toward “intersectionality” in the late 1990s/early 2000s.

This period in development also included “gender and the environment” (GED) – supporting ecofeminist perspectives that essentially problematized presumed functionalist connections between women and nature embedded in the notion that “women were responsible for managing the environment” (Harcourt, 2018, p. 3). GAD and GED standpoints, when taken together, were both critical for diversifying the experiences of gendered identities incorporated into power relations. That is, such viewpoints embraced gender as one spoke of a larger “identity wheelhouse” to be considered along the wider helm of gender(ed) power relations. In many ways, GED helped to ensure GAD upheld more intersectional approaches that stress the importance of relations among various categories of difference – including race, class, ethnic differences and religion – and aim to locate how these categories overlap on both structural and relational levels. Still, and as Mason (2017) points out, the intersectional approach taken up by GAD approaches remained grounded in heteronormative perspectives, with transgender and queer bodies overlooked or excluded altogether.

Following the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, GAD frameworks promoted “gender mainstreaming” and urged multilateral agencies to move from WID to “gender equality” (Eyben, 2018, p. 519; United Nations, 1995). Gender mainstreaming involved “both a strategy for infusing mainstream policy agendas with a gender perspective and for transforming the institutions associated with these agendas” (Eyben, 2018, p. 519). And yet, a backlash emerged as gender mainstreaming became routinely automated, depoliticized and “bureaucratized” (Eyben, 2018, p. 519).

The failures of structural adjustment policies (SAPs) in the mid-1990s ushered in enthusiasm for more participatory, democratic and “good governance”-focused approaches to GAD. The push for international development targets (see Merry, 2016) – later taken up in the form of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – resulted in a focus on poverty reduction (2000s) leading to an agreement to provide debt relief to highly indebted poor countries. Honing in on poverty reduction resulted in gender equality objectives being overlooked. In 2005, the UN Foundation and Nike Foundation, in partnership with the NoVo Foundation, commenced the “Girl Effect” campaign – continued the focus on poverty alleviation, but began positioning girls as the “new panaceas” of development (Girl Effect, 2021). This emphasis on investing in the efficiency of girls and women as financially responsible was similarly taken up by the World Bank, framing gender equality as “smart economics” (Eyben, 2018, p. 521).

However, the Girl Effect and related campaigns have been heavily critiqued by feminist development scholars for a number of reasons. Of particular concern are the ways such campaigns often perpetuate a “feminization of responsibility and/or obligation” focused on the economization of girl-oriented initiatives (e.g., conditional cash transfer programs, microfinance activities, etc.) that end up validating naturalized and essentialist representations of girls (Chant, 2016; Roberts, 2015). The result is a “cocktail of celebratory girlafestos” (Koffman, Orgad, & Gill, 2015, p. 157) that tend to overlook the structural and historical causes of poverty and gender inequality by legitimizing, reproducing and even revering corporate-led neoliberal and global capitalist frameworks to lay claim to girls' empowerment and economic fortitude (Roberts, 2015). As Chant (2016, p. 26) remarks

Rationales for female involvement in conditional cash transfers, microfinance, and “Girl Effect”-type initiatives appear to be deeply rooted in a range of reactive gendered essentialisms, in which there seems to be insufficient political will to transform inegalitarian gendered responsibilities for livelihoods, to challenge male power and privilege, or to destabilize socially and geographically inequitable macroeconomic structures.

Critics also contend that conflating girls' empowerment with economic vitality simply frames women and girls as more efficient and responsible, thereby underlining their compliance with normative expectations (Cornwall, Correa, & Susie, 2008; Wilson, 2011). Other scholars have voiced the perilous techniques used by girl-focused development initiatives that all-too-often use the active bodies of racialized girls – for example, a Black girl using a shovel to dig a hole for a water well or a Brown girl bicycling to school (Khoja-Moolji, 2019). In turn, the economization of girls under this “new” approach to gender (equality) and development used “the bodies of black and brown girls” and made them “hyper-visible in humanitarian and international development discourses” (Khoja-Moolji, 2019, p. 3). As Wilson (2011, p. 322) asks, “what are the implications of the kinds of ‘positive’ images of women [and, we would add, girls] which are produced” and “in what ways are these images gendered and racialized?” Indeed, the Girl Effect campaign largely paralleled previous efforts by Nike to “set the tone for popular feminism's marshaling of injury and capacity as twinned discourses in an economy of visibility” (Banet-Weiser, 2018, p. 50) (also see Chapter 7).

The Girl Effect was just one strand of a broader response toward the various challenges faced by the international community – including the UN system – in promoting a “single recognized driver to direct UN activities on gender equality issues.” UN Women was subsequently established in 2010 – formally known as the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women, 2021d). Alongside the UN, other international organizations such as Plan International also started to focus more exclusively on gender equality, specifically, through their seminal “Because I am a Girl” campaign, which ran from 2012 to 2018. In partnership with a number of organizations, Plan International, the UN and the Girl Effect launched a number of initiatives, such as “International Day of the Girl” in 2011 and turning various landmarks (e.g., the Pyramids in Egypt) pink to “raise public awareness of the importance of girls' education” in 2012 (Plan International, 2021).

Importantly, in 2015, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) emerged as part of the “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” established during the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (or Rio+20) with gender equality and women's empowerment being essential to the achievement of each goal. The framework aims to “provid[e] a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future” with “17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries – developed and developing – in a global partnership” (UN, 2021b). SDG Goal 5 “achieve gender equality and empower all girls and women” (UN, 2021a) is, of course, of particular relevance for the SGD realm. Some feminist development scholars suggest that the SDGs represented a new opportunity to reinvigorate the stagnating MDGs; with great concern that the MDGs were far too simplistic, measureable, reductionist and largely based on “the power of numbers to communicate a development agenda with a sense of scientific certitude and serious intent with potential for accountability” (Fukuda-Parr, 2016, p. 49). While the MDGs placed most of the onus on Global South countries with poverty-centric objectives; the SDGs have still been lauded for embodying “a truly We The Peoples Agenda,” with a sharpened focus on the operationalization and procedures for achieving development for all countries through social, economic and environmental tenets of development (Senit, 2020, p. 693). At the same time, the SDGs have also been denounced for lacking built-in accountability mechanisms to ensure they are realized (Fukuda-Parr, 2016).

Despite the “pros” and “cons” of the SDGs, they remain a mainstay on the SDP landscape. Over the last five years, a major focus of the SDP movement has been solidifying the link to the UN SDGs, resulting in the increasing institutionalization and professionalization of the SDP sector (McSweeney et al., forthcoming). For example, The International Platform on Sport and Development, The Commonwealth, and Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade: “Sport for Sustainable Development: Designing Effective Policies and Programmes” set up to explore how sport can contribute to achieving the SDGs through specific procedures and approaches. Indeed, a key contribution of SDP to the SDGs is the focus on gender equality, an issue to which we further dissect in the next section.

The Rise of Sport, Gender, and Development

Of all the [Mathare Youth Sports Association's] initiatives, perhaps the inclusion of girls into soccer leagues has been the most interesting and courageous […] Given that sport has traditionally been seen as reinforcing patriarchy, the question is whether it [sport] can provide a unique opportunity to break down patriarchal structures, leading towards more equality.

(Willis, 2000, p. 845)

In 2000, Owen Willis wrote what was one of the first scholarly articles (to our knowledge) about one of the most established SDP NGOs – the Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA), in Nairobi, Kenya – and its programming for young women and girls. In the 20 years since this article was written, we estimate that thousands of SDP programs with an explicit focus on gender have emerged, many driven by large international NGOs such as “Women Win” – but some programming created by other smaller, more locally-focused entities too (e.g., Asociación Movimiento de Jóvenes de la Isla de Ometepe – AMOJO, in Nicaragua). Even still, many women and girls who participate in sport, leisure, recreation and physical activity on a day-to-day basis, outside the formalities of structured SGD programs, seem to be overlooked by accounts of SGD, at least in scholarly work.

Researchers have demonstrated that sport is a useful tool to contribute to GAD in various ways, particularly as a means to enhance girls' and women's health and well-being, facilitating their self-esteem and self-empowerment, fostering social inclusion and social integration, challenging and transforming gender norms, educating women and girls about HIV/AIDS prevention, and providing them with opportunities for leadership and achievement (Forde, 2009; Hayhurst, 2014b; Jeanes & Magee, 2013; Larkin, Razack, & Moola, 2007; Nicholls & Giles, 2007; Oxford & McLachlan, 2018; Saavedra, 2005; Thorpe & Rinehart, 2013; Willis, 2000; Zipp, 2017). Indeed, some of the early SGD research emerging in the late 1990s explored “unstructured” forms of SGD. For example, Jennifer Hargreaves examined the challenges facing the development of women's sports in South Africa, pointing to the multifaceted ways that the legacy of apartheid-shaped South African women's sporting experiences (Hargreaves, 1997). Martha Brady was perhaps one of the first scholars to draw attention to the SGD “field,” particularly through her work at the Population Council that considered how sport may be utilized to address gender inequalities and improve the lives of girls and women around the world (Brady, 2005; Brady & Banu-Khan, 2002). Brady's work focused on two mixed-sex programs in Kenya and Egypt, where she highlighted the importance of safe mobility and public spaces for young women to participate in SGD programming (Brady, 2005). Notably, the question guiding her research remains salient today: can sport “serve as a mechanism for building social networks and bringing girls into the public sphere, and by doing so begin to transform gender norms” (Brady, 2005, p. 36)? Here, Brady asserts that SGD may be located at the crux of two “types” of female activists realizing the possible potential of sport in different ways. First, she contends that development activists and feminist development theorists need to focus on sport as a tool to enhance international women's health and rights. Second, sportswomen and feminist sport theorists must “reach beyond their traditional scope to incorporate broader health and development objectives onto their agenda” (Brady, 2005, p. 35).

Brady (2005) and Willis (2000) define sport as a tool to contribute toward “development” using language from the United Nations Development Program. More specifically, Willis defines development as “enlarging people's choices” (2000, p. 840), and Brady frames development using the UN MDGs, arguing that sport is a pertinent tool to “promote education, development, health and peace” (2005, p. 37). Hargreaves discusses how development is often equated with “progress and liberation” where a “backward, usually agrarian, non-industrialized economy” is transformed into “an industrialized economy” (1997, p. 198). Today, the definition of development accesses varied understandings of “empowerment” and “progress” for girls and women.

What a number of early SGD-focused articles confer is that an effective sports structure may contribute toward social, economic, and cultural development objectives for women and girls (Brady, 2005; Pelak, 2005). Brady (2005) and Walseth and Fasting (2003) argue that the secular organization of sport may serve as a barrier to the social development of women and girls. Such studies emphasize the importance of religion, social order, different understandings of sexuality, and women's “lack of autonomy” (from a Western perspective), suggesting that women and girls may not experience the same development “benefits” through sport as those from other countries and cultures. The assumption that sport will “fix” and distract young women by discouraging them from participating in crime, gangs, or mingling with boys is put forth by both Willis (2000) and Brady (2005).

Burnett (2001) examines a program where sport is positioned as a tool to promote social inclusion for youth of low socioeconomic status. Here, she suggests sport is framed as a tool to promote participation and fun, not just “exclusivity and competition” (Burnett, 2001, p. 52). Burnett's (2001) findings also support the notion that sports development programs provide “important building blocks and the nurturing of sports talent” (p. 52). Similarly, Hargreaves notes that “a comprehensive sports structure is also an index of development” (1997, p. 198). Whereas gender-based SDP programs might target disadvantaged women and girls, high-performance sport programs tend to create training programs for promising young females who have been fortunate enough to have opportunities to get to that level (Brady, 2005; Burnett, 2001). In many ways, then, the programs for girls and women discussed in these articles often interweave program content to include both social and elite sport development goals. Regardless of whether earlier SGD scholars positioned sport as a tool to promote social development (e.g., Brady, 2005; Willis, 2000), high-performance sport development (e.g., Pelak, 2005), or both realms together (Burnett, 2001; Hargreaves, 1997), SGD programming to this day tends to rely heavily on the belief that the lives of women and girls in the Global South (and in marginalized communities in the Global North) will be somehow “enhanced” (i.e., improved health, self-esteem, inclusion, social mobility, integration, and empowerment) through access to sporting and physical activity opportunities.

However, and despite Hargreaves conducting research 20 years ago, it still seems that “women who c[ame] from minority groups and from countries outside the West have been marginalized, and their experiences, problems, struggles and achievements have been excluded from mainstream history and practice” (Hargreaves, 2000, p. 6). Sport feminists have increasingly moved toward exploring social inclusion and prioritizing the perspectives and needs of women from multiple ethnic and social backgrounds to build a unified front that aims to use sport to improve the opportunities for all women's participation (Hargreaves, 2000). Nevertheless, the focus on “sameness” and cohesion risks upholding essentialist claims that ignore the diverse experiences of gender and feminism across race, age, patriarchy and capitalism. Indeed, Pelak (2005) stresses the importance of actively avoiding universalizing women's sporting experiences by considering categories of difference as they influence sport and physical activity; and encourages those studying SGD to view culture as hybrid, fluid, and inherently dynamic. Put differently, she suggests we must be mindful of how “gender intersects with other systems of power, namely race and class” (Pelak, 2005, p. 55), while also being attentive to ways in which scholarship on women's sporting experiences has long focused on the White, middle-class, Western woman (Hargreaves, 2004). As Shehu (2010, p. x) attests:

Despite the pressures created by feminists and other social movements to open up the sport arena to women and other previously excluded groups, the age-old patriarchal principles embedded in sport, reinforced at every turn by the mass media and gendered socialization, remain a major obstacle to personal fulfillment and advance in sport for many African women….[African] women, perceived as a threat to the male system of power relations in sport, become targets of toxic myths, stigmas, and harassment in sport spaces to perpetuate the domination of these spaces by heterosexual, masculine males.

Over the past decade, feminist sport scholars have drawn from different strands of critical race and feminist theory – i.e., transnational feminisms, Indigenous feminisms, postcolonial and decolonial feminisms, intersectional feminisms – to reveal the politics of race, ethnicity, culture and religion in women's experiences of sport and physical culture both in organized sport and everyday forms of physical activity, fitness and recreation (e.g., Azzarito, 2019; McGuire-Adams, 2020; Palmer, 2016; Ratna, 2018; see Ratna & Samie, 2018 for an excellent overview). Such important writings on difference as it is lived, felt, resisted and negotiated, combined with Shehu's (2010) warnings, hold important implications for considering the contradictions of SGD: its apparent utility as a tool for empowering and challenging gender norms for women and girls; and yet, its simultaneous ability – in some contexts – to act as a catalyst for women and girls' subordination and various forms of sexual violence and gender-based discrimination.

Notably, most studies that examine the intersections among SGD allude to a lack of resources and poverty as one of the most prominent barriers experienced by women and girls in terms of sport participation (Brady, 2005; Burnett, 2001, 2018; Hargreaves, 1997; Pelak, 2005). In fact, Hargreaves (1997) argues that the “feminization of poverty” has resulted in dire situations for many African women, as the “lack of adequate housing, safe water, sanitation, and basic health care – the main causes of preventable disease – are almost exclusive to the African population and mainly to women” (p. 198). Others refer to the lack of parental involvement and financial support in young girls' activities, mostly due to the challenging structural inequalities they must navigate – as well as a lack of sports facilities, equipment, and human resources (Brady, 2005; Burnett, 2001; Shehu, 2010). Moreover, gender inequalities, “gendered spaces”, lack of women sports figures as role models and patriarchal sport systems are other important factors that prevent women and girls from participating in physical activity (e.g., Brady, 2005; Meier & Saavedra, 2009; Nicholls, Giles, & Sethna, 2011; Walseth & Fasting, 2003). Finally, studies featured in the edited volume on Gender, Sport and Development in Africa by Jimoh Shehu (2010) explore how young women are often dissuaded from participating in sports such as soccer due to its association with cultural, religious and patriarchal norms; as well as concerns pertaining to its physicality and vigorous nature, which are thought to negatively impact young women's fertility, wellbeing, and sexuality. For example, Daimon (2010, p. 10) explains how soccer in Zimbabwe risks exposing women and girls who participate to various forms of violence through “hooliganism, sexual molestation; discrimination, lack of sponsorship, juju stigmatizations, and gender socialization problems within the home.” Taken together, these studies hold important implications for considering the tensions, challenges and contradictions of SGD. That is, although some SGD interventions may contribute to reducing gender divides, at the same time, the everyday interactions and decision-making of program participants that may present resistance to gender stereotypes and norms may often be constrained due to broader structures of gender inequality (Chawansky, 2011; Collison, Darnell, Giulianotti, & Howe, 2017; Thorpe, 2016).

While these are important insights into SGD programs, Saavedra (2005, p. 1) calls for more research to “sensitize us to the gendered implications of any and all work related to sport and development, not just to that focused on females” (p. 1, italics added for emphasis). She also cautions those attempting to involve women and girls in SGD projects to be concerned with safety (particularly sexual violence in sport), competing obligations (e.g., sexual division of labor creates heavy demands on women and girls' time for leisure) and finally, gender and sexuality norms (Saavedra, 2005). Such arguments correspond with recent efforts by Oxford and Spaaij (2019, p. 4) to “end the static Western gender binaries that trap non-Western women in a double bind of being represented as either empowered in the Western sense (e.g., ‘modern, neoliberal, capitalist’) or ‘the perpetual victim’ needing to be rescued.” Indeed, it seems that if programmers overlook such issues, they risk perpetuating an integrative, gender-in-development approach (e.g., integrating women and girls into existing male-dominated structures), rather than a transformative GAD approach (e.g., fundamental and transformative change to existing dominant systems and structures of gender (in)equality) (Zipp & Nauright, 2018).

Scholars have also critiqued SGD programs along similar lines for the ways such initiatives, at times, simply absorb young women into existing gender structures (Burnett, 2018; Chawansky, 2011) often placing responsibility on “beneficiaries” of SDP (i.e., girls and women) to alter complex gender structures and relations (Hayhurst, 2016). Alternatively, other studies suggest that – while taking place within highly institutionalized gender inequality – women in SGD programs (in this case, Papua New Guinea) may use consciousness-raising activities about, for example, structures of oppression in their lives that may offer “potentially transformative processes that provide a foundation for change” (Seal & Sherry, 2018, p. 255). Such work argues that there are thus opportunities for young women to change through sport-focused development interventions at the microlevel (Seal & Sherry, 2018). A number of studies investigate how gender norms may be contested by young women's actions through and in sport in contexts where heteronormative ideologies remain about female sport participation, suggesting that those who participate in SGD have opportunities to resist and challenge hegemonic, often neoliberal ideologies and commonly patriarchal social norms (Hayhurst, 2014; Nicholls, Giles, & Sethna, 2011). Indeed, debates pertaining to the ways young women and girls are thought to be purveyors of social transformation and change vis-à-vis SGD connects well with the Girl Effect campaign: an initiative in the broader field of development that has played a key role in critically examining SGD research. In the section that follows, we turn to the Girl Effect in more depth to consider its role in SGD.

The Girling of Sport for Development

Over the past decade, SGD initiatives have emerged as “trendy” in international development, with this pattern largely mirroring the “girling of development” (Hayhurst, 2011; Murphy, 2017). The girling of development positions girls as the focal points and purveyors of development – sound, responsible, investable “targets” that will positively shape and achieve development outcomes. As a theme that is taken up throughout each chapter in this book, the girling of development has earned notable criticism and concern in the literature – particularly in relation to the Girl Effect movement – a campaign initiated by the Nike Foundation and NoVo Foundation that presumed adolescent girls were catalysts for change and that “by investing significantly in adolescent girls, governments and international organizations could stop poverty before it starts” (Girl Effect, 2019, p. 5). The partnership spanned a decade, releasing social media to draw attention to the lack of engagement with girls by the international development community. From 2009 to 2019, the Girl Effect channeled “$132 million in girl programming investments in more than 80 countries via a network of 140 organizations” (Girl Effect, 2019, p. 5). Despite the arguable success in galvanizing attention on girls and “getting them on the global development agenda” – the Girl Effect report touches only briefly on the need for play, leisure and recreation, outlining that safe programs for girls involves “time for girls to socialize and engage in recreational activities” (Girl Effect, 2019, p. 15).

Indeed, underpinning the Girl Effect movement is the belief that “when given the opportunity, women and girls are more effective at lifting themselves and their families out of poverty, thereby having a multiplier effect within their villages, cities, and nations” (Shain, 2013, p. 2). Many feminist scholars have adopted poststructuralist and postcolonial critiques of the Girl Effect movement. For example, Koffman and Gill (2013) illustrate how the Girl Effect discourse “articulates notions of girlhood, empowerment, development” and reinforces the Global North/South divide (p. 84). In the subtle shift from women to girls, Sensoy and Marshall (2010) refer to the “newly emergent discursive strategies that construct first world girls as the saviors of their ‘Third World’ sisters' as ‘missionary girl power’” (p. 296).

Literature on girlhood, gender, and development has, for the most part, ignored sport. Over recent years, however, there has been an uptake of interest in SGD by critical and feminist sport and development scholars (Chawansky & Hayhurst, 2015; Chawansky, Hayhurst, McDonald, & van Ingen, 2017; Oxford, 2019; Oxford & Spaaij, 2019; Thorpe, Hayhurst, & Chawansky, 2018; Toffoletti, Palmer, & Samie, 2018; Zipp, Smith, & Darnell, 2019). Despite this growing body of scholarship, there remains a considerable lack of research on SGD by scholars in the Global South (exceptions include Burnett, 2001, 2018; Mwaanga, 2010; Mwaanga & Banda, 2014; Shehu, 2010) – mirroring much of the work in SDP more broadly (see Darnell, Chawansky, Marchesseault, Holmes, & Hayhurst, 2018). Indeed, many “sport for girls development” programmes assume a “taken-for-granted liberatory character” focusing on “sport's allegedly progressive role in supporting gender equality” without considering the complexities of creating long-term, sustainable changes for the lives of girls and women in local contexts (McDonald, 2015, p. 1). As various SDP scholars have explained, many SDP initiatives include girl-focused programs to latch onto this current cultural moment (Chawansky & Hayhurst, 2015), and many of the sensibilities of the Girl Effect are evident in such projects (Hayhurst, 2014).

Questions of representation, ethics and resistance posed by critics of the Girl Effect have continued to emerge throughout current SGD scholarship, programming, policy and practice, returning to earlier sport feminist debates as to whether sport is “a culture of assimilation or resistance for women in postcolonial countries; and whether it is a powerful expression of these women's progress or a form of manipulation” (Hargreaves, 2004, p. 198). In turn, critical work by sport feminists have questioned the motives of, for example, “women from the west and neo-colonial elites” who were “characterized as benefactors arguing for sports resources on behalf of the dispossessed” (Hargreaves, 2004, p. 197). These significant critiques have continued in the current SGD literature – with the majority of scholarly work by academics based in North America, the United Kingdom, Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand and, to a lesser extent, Europe. Such scholars have engaged an array of approaches from cultural studies and feminist tenets of poststructuralist perspectives, including neoliberal feminisms, and feminist postcolonial, anticolonial and decolonial lenses. In this book, we take up and extend some of these approaches, critically discussing and illustrating their usefulness for investigating SGD-focused interventions. Specifically, we further explore these issues more deeply in the chapters that follow in relation to economic empowerment programming for girls (Chapter 3), action sports for gender development (Chapter 4), and GBV, sexual and reproductive health rights and climate change (Chapter 6).

Sport, Gender and Development: A Critical Feminist Intervention

As detailed above, the use of sport as a tool to purportedly improve, empower and/or enhance the lives of women and girls is not a new phenomenon. Its history is vast, complex and well-documented (see Caudwell, Mansfield, Watson, & Wheaton, 2018; Cooky & Messner, 2018; Hargreaves, 1997, 2004; Sherry & Rowe, 2020; Toffoletti et al., 2018; Vertinsky & Hargreaves, 2006). Indeed, scholarship on sport, physical culture, activity, leisure, and recreation has examined the relationship between sport and gender from a wide range of perspectives, including conservative, liberal, Marxist, radical, cultural studies, postmodern, intersectional feminism (to name but a few) (Mansfield, Caudwell, Wheaton, & Watson, 2018). Our book is not meant to serve as an exhaustive overview of the relationship between sport and gender. Rather, our aim is to focus on various theoretical and conceptual tenets used for exploring SGD – including (but not limited to) – an exploration of sport feminisms, neoliberal feminisms (as deployed vis-à-vis GAD that emphasize discourses of empowerment, self-confidence, body positivity, individualism), as well as feminist materialist, feminist physical cultural, postcolonial, anticolonial and decolonial feminist lenses.

In this book, we also critically examine the relationship between SGD and the United Nations in an effort to pinpoint how SGD has been “mainstreamed” by dominant development actors as imperative for promoting sexual and reproductive health rights – and, in the #MeToo era – as a programming model to prevent gender-based, domestic and sexual violence against women and girls. Clearly, and in the (post) COVID-19 pandemic moment, there has already been evidence of the adverse ways SGD – and the women's sport and physical activity sector more broadly – has been particularly impacted and threatened on local, national and global scales (IWG, 2020; UN, 2020).

In subsequent chapters, we build on research conducted by each of us using a range of methods (i.e., fieldwork, digital methods, media analysis) in multiple contexts/sites, to examine how popular feminism, nonprofit and commercial campaigns related to SGD are (re)produced, circulated and resisted through everyday practice, organizational policy and media representations. We inform and ground this empirical work in a variety of countries and contexts – including with organizations and individuals in Afghanistan, Uganda, Nicaragua, South Africa and India. While the findings from these particular locations cannot be generalized more broadly, we hope the overall arguments we make throughout this book and illustrated in particular chapters and contexts can be taken up to expand feminist thinking, research and interventions in the field of SGD.

As feminist scholars, however, we would be remiss not to highlight the challenges and importance of grounding this book with our “reflexive sense[s] of humility” (Kidd, 2011, p. 609). We identify as three white women hailing from postsecondary institutions in three countries from the Global North: Canada, Aotearoa New Zealand and the United States. Despite our apparent “similarities” (gender, whiteness, privilege), our gendered bodies are read, lived and experienced differently in each of these contexts, as we each navigate and respond to different histories of settler colonialism and our individual and collective responsibilities within ongoing systems of inequality and injustice. Put slightly differently, “we sit with different settler accountabilities and responsibilities in different lands” (Yazbeck, Brown, Danis, & Nelson, 2019, p. 76). Importantly, our differences (nationality, sexuality, age), as well as our similarities, shape our access within and across the varied spaces and places of SGD, SDP and development work more broadly and thus also our accountabilities and responsibilities to the communities with whom we work.

Collectively, as scholars, practitioners and/or participants, we have been involved in a number of sport and gender-focused nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), programs, projects, interventions, policy-making opportunities and other “SGD venues” throughout the last 20 years. Throughout this period, we have witnessed the ebbs and flows of sport and its relationship to gender and development. Despite our active participation in a variety of roles in the SGD phenomenon, we do not claim to be “the” experts. On the contrary, we write this book with the aim of opening a critical dialogue that values the multiplicities of knowledge and experience within and across SGD. In this book, we reflect on our own feminist research journeys in SGD while also “searching for new ways to develop better collaborative research relationships across diverse communities, all with the aim of producing knowledge that will contribute in some way to creating a more just society,” (Frisby & Creese, 2011, p. 1). It seems crucial, then – given the focus of this book – to uphold Nagar's (2014, p. 100) call for a reworking of typical academic reflexivity; a brand of reflexivity that seems to invoke apolitically rehearsing an individual researcher's social identities in relation to the institutional locations in which they operate. Instead, Nagar calls for a kind of reflexivity that “could become a basis for forming situated solidarities with third-world subjects to produce potential[ly] (more) meaningful knowledges across geographical, institutional, and sociopolitical borders” (2014, p. 100). As we further explore throughout this book, especially in our coauthored chapters with grassroots SGD activists and long-term research collaborators from India and Nicaragua (see Chapters 3 and 6), it seems increasingly pressing to decenter the production of knowledge in SGD (and SDP, more broadly). Though we further expand on these key debates in Chapters 2 and 8, here, we acknowledge the clear limitations and privileges of our positions as settler scholars in the Global North with common and distinct interests. Thus, in various places throughout the book, we have tried to clarify the instances when our contentions only refer to one of us in an effort to ensure we do claim to speak on behalf of authorship team members.

Unpacking Key Concepts: Reflections on Terminology

This book is intended to be accessible to a wide range of readers, including academic researchers, practitioners, policy-makers, and undergraduate and graduate students. We have the privilege of making this book open access, therefore increasing its availability, reach, and thus hopefully its accessibility as well. In doing so, we hope to stimulate much needed conversations among a broader range of communities and stakeholders in SGD and SDP beyond the ivory tower. However, the field of SDP is often punctuated by key terms that, we suggest, require more nuance and debate to help open the conversation. Below, we outline a few of the concepts we critically engage with throughout the book; terms that we suggest deserve greater clarity in terms of how they are deployed, understood and taken up in SGD/SDP. For example, we hope to point out the dangers in assuming some concepts are universal, static and binary and urge readers to contemplate their definitions in multiple ways. For, as Merry (2016) points out, there is great power in the vernacular, especially through local/global development interventions. Vernacular understandings of SGD, agency, empowerment, feminism, equality, and reciprocity, as Merry (2016, p. 215) writes, “need to be translated into global categories that will travel across lines of culture, class and religion.” The vernacular in SGD seems all the more pressing because “these categories need to be translated into local terms in order to measure local ideas and behaviors accurately, but they need to retain their universal meanings in order to make comparisons possible across borders” (Merry, 2016, p. 215). We would be irresponsible, then, not to likewise question what these terms truly mean for the variety of people and communities involved in our research, in diverse sites and contexts. We do our best to better understand the key limitations, tensions, and (un)intended consequences of employing these terms without questioning their meaning(s) in a variety of locales. Below, we briefly note just a few examples of some of the central concepts and categories we have been wrestling with in the writing of this book.

Gender and Sex

It is important to firstly clarify our understandings of “gender” and “sex” and explain how we take up these concepts up throughout this book. As many have pointed out, the development industry has, for the most part, often failed to address the age-old binary question pertaining to “sex” and “gender” in development due to its institutionalization of heterosexual norms (Cornwall & Jolly, 2016). When gender is considered at all in development work, policy and, until recently, scholarship – it is often rigid, fixed and static and mostly focused on men/male/masculinities or women/female/femininities. This binary line of inquiry not only fails to account for the lived realities of human beings but is theoretically unsound on a number of levels and ignores the fluidity of gender as a social construction and multiple forms of gendered identities and expressions. As Butler explains, “it is through the body that gender and sexuality become exposed to others implicated in social processes, inscribed by cultural norms, and apprehended in their social meanings. In a sense, to be a body is to be given over to others even as a body is, emphatically, ‘one’s’ own,’ that over which we must claim rights of autonomy” (2004, p. 20).

In a similar vein, feminist development and SGD scholars have discussed how gender is often superficially charted onto binary sexed bodies mostly in heteronormative and cisgendered approaches (Carney & Chawansky, 2016; Mason, 2017). Indeed, Parpart (2012, as cited by Mason, 2017) suggests that those who specialize in the gender arena in development tend to “have little understanding of the functions of gender and pay no attention to intersectionality or performativity. In practice, this means that development organizations are concerned with only some women's well-being” (Mason, 2017, p. 27).

Though gender continues to be an essential pillar of development policy, there continues to be an absence of “sexuality, gender identity, expression, and sex characteristics analyses (SOGIE/SC)2” in order to “sophisticate[s] and complicate[s] development's understanding of structural, systemic, and interpersonal inequality and the promotion of human rights globally” (Mason, 2018, p. 2). When the gender binary assumptions foray into development programs, policies, and institutions, particular understandings of gender and sexuality are subsumed; assumptions that obscure alternative realities and forms of gender identification and sexuality such as same-sex sexualities and diverse modes of heterosexual social and sexual arrangements (Cornwall & Jolly, 2009). Put differently, certain communities are prioritized over others, as “ongoing debates over gender recognition and trans rights uphold binary and heteronormative forms of gender, often fought most vociferously by feminist organisations whose raison d'etre of standing up for ‘women’ has straightjacketed them into binary thinking while remaining adamant against changing the harmful imposition of the status quo” (Purewal & Loh, 2021, p. 3).

Similarly, SDP is largely underpinned by a heteronormative foundation, failing to realize multiple forms of sexual expression, queer desire and embodiment – particularly in Global South contexts (Carney & Chawansky, 2016). Body politics and issues around embodiment, including sexual and reproductive health, sexual rights, queer sexualities and body security have also been overlooked in both development and SDP fields (Carney & Chawansky, 2016; Harcourt, 2018). Funding and monitoring and evaluation frameworks anchored by heteronormative assumptions, conservatism, Christian religious entities and misogynist patriarchal formulas driven by hypercapitalist entities like the World Bank, USAID and International Monetary Fund tend to drive what constitutes (sport for) development.

With the above stated, in this book, we recognize the limitations, complexities, messiness, and slipperiness of engaging with the “gender” in “sport, gender and development.” Gender has essentialist connotations and is limiting in a number of ways. We want to be clear that we regard the gender binary system, which positions people into two mutually exclusive categories -– boys/men and girls/women – as both damaging and false. We concur with Saavedra's (2009, p. 126 drawing on Young, 2002, p. 415) preference for “the lived body”, recognizing how the physical body responds, engages with, interacts with and embodies the sociocultural environment. For example, in the chapters that follow, we take up the term “violence against women,” but in doing so, we recognize that we may be recycling “the assumption that cisgender women experience violence by cisgender men, leaving out the question of violence against transgender women and collapsing the complexities between sex and gender” (Mason, 2017, p. 27). Thus, terms like “violence against women” ends up emphasizing a singular lens, excluding and ignoring others who might experience patriarchal violence – such as LGBTQ individuals, and even in some cases, when heterosexual men are assaulted by women (Mason, 2017). Even GBV tends to build on dominant assumptions of heterosexual cisgender men's dominance over heterosexual cisgender women (Hirsch & Khan, 2020). For purposes of consistency, and though we continue to use terms like violence against women and GBV, we continue to strive for alternative understandings, where power relations in sexual violence in development and SDP need to extend “beyond a singular focus on gender in two ways: it must be more intersectional, and it must acknowledge the social fluidity of power – that there are multiple forms of power where, situationally, the same person could be on either side of the equation” (Hirsch & Khan, 2020, p. 230).

We contend that, in some ways, SGD – as an increasingly institutionalized “sector” in and of itself – continues to play into, and perpetuate, the logic of gender binarism, with many programs focused exclusively (for example) on girls and women. In some of the chapters discussed in this book, we thus (at times) engage with this approach as if such falsehoods are true, but then proceed to dismantle such binaries and “get at” how we can ultimately rethink the logic of SGD. For part of what we do in this book is to expose and disrupt how patriarchy, misogyny and sexism operate in SDP practices, policies, programming and scholarship. In this spirit, we find it helpful to study SGD in a similar vein to Manne's (2018, p. 27) approach to studying misogyny

Investigating the logic of misogyny often involves exploring what is entailed by such problematic or indeed flatly false assumptions, which exclude many people, and assume away legitimate and salutary ways of being embodied, living, and loving – and even some people's very humanity or existence. But it can be useful to understand the inner workings of a system that upholds the status quo in intricate and sometimes even morally gory detail, in order to see how to best combat it.

In this way, the ethos of our book is to understand how the “inner workings of a system that upholds the status quo” (which SDP arguably does, in a number of ways) may be damaging and exclusive, and must be unsettled and perhaps expanded upon and improved. In such processes of unsettling, we are interested in how local, regional and international understandings of gender intersect with other workings of power, such as colonialism, racism and Global North–Global South relations.

Gender Equity versus Equality

We suggest that current SGD research, practice and policy has encountered challenges in engaging with the differences between equality and equity. Much of the language used by the SDGs, for example, seem to be mostly couched in terms of gender equality, especially because this is precisely what SDG#5 invokes, “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls” (UN Women, 2021b). In turn, we suggest that equity – guided by a transformative, social justice approach – needs to be at the forefront of SGD policy, programming and practice.

Equality focuses on treating everyone the same, which does not necessarily lead to fair and equitable results. Indeed, if a gender equality agenda guides SGD policies and programs, we risk perpetuating “normalizing conditions, at the micro and macro level, that will benefit those who are privileged historically and currently systematically” (e-Alliance, 2021). A gender equality lens runs the risk of exacerbating and perpetuating existing outcomes, some of which end up privileging certain individuals, often at the expense of others. We recognize that “equity” is part and parcel of the feminist tools developed within the “coloniality of power” – alongside concepts such as “empowerment,” “patriarchy” and “rights”; and still, we contend that a focus on equity might contribute to decentering “the apparatus of coloniality” (Purewal & Loh, 2021, p. 2) within broader SGD studies. We thus hope the chapters herein point to this crucial shift. And so, we ask, how can we recalibrate SGD to a more transformative, social justice, and equity-centered conjecture, one that exposes opportunities for more transparent dialogue and uncomfortable conversations that are guided by the “intrinsically political character and analytical foci of feminism: power and difference” (Resurrección, 2017, p. 75)? This question is one we grapple with throughout the pages of this book.

Global North and Global South

Throughout this book, we have used the term “Global North” to refer to countries categorized as upper-middle and high-income countries, including North America, Western Europe, and developed parts of East Asia. In contrast, we employ the term “Global South” to denote countries classified by the World Bank as low or middle-income that are located in Africa, Asia, Oceania, Latin America and the Caribbean. This division between North and South has largely been driven in terms of wealth, scientific and human development. And yet, using these terms also rather inaccurately “lumps together” and homogenizes the experiences of what are quite distinct and diverse social, economic and political contexts (Mahler, 2017). Indeed, the risk of essentializing in using the term “Global South” is that it ends up being positioned as a term “interpellated by its pronounced alterity, reconstituting its homogeneity in the midst of its roaring calls for recognising difference […] without respect to geographical particularities and the international division of labor” (Persard, 2021, p. 128). Similarly, Global North and South have been critiqued for being ambiguous, confusing and vague. For example, Peterson and Runyan (2010, p. 34) note there are also “elites in the South who share the privileges in the global North.”

Although some suggest the terms Global South and Global North are helpful for “denot[ing] social locations of subjugation and privilege,” we employ these terms with caution. In previous work (e.g., Hayhurst, 2011), we have used the terms “One-Third World” (to refer to the Global North) and “Two-Thirds World” (to refer to the Global South). Following Esteva and Prakash (1998), these terms are potentially useful for representing the social minorities and majorities in both the North and South while attempting to remove ideological and geographical binaries engendered in other terms (e.g., North/South). And yet, these concepts – while attempting to embrace nuance, complexity and a more fluid understanding of the North–South divide – seem to rarely be taken up in current GAD literature, or by the organizations and audiences to whom we have geared this book. Thus, we use Global South and North for putting our work more squarely in conversation with others in the SGD space. Still, we recognize – and want to draw attention to – the ways that inequalities are not simply between countries (and they never were). They are also on multiple scales and within and between communities. We are also cognizant that “the rhetoric of decolonizing feminism has established the site of the decolonial as sometimes ambiguous, uncritically calling for Global South alliances without recognising the geopolitical power from where such scholars and students stand” (Persard, 2021, p. 128, italics added for emphasis). At the same time, we do not want to simply “declare our geopolitical privileges and shrug” (Persard, 2021, p. 128). Throughout the book, we try to critically, transparently and reflexively contend with our social and geopolitical positionalities – while drawing on relationality/relationships, reciprocity, ethics of care, reflexivity, positionality and embodied engagements with the methods we take up, and the places and people we work with (see Chapter 2 where we further discuss these issues).

Adolescent Girls and Young Women

In the chapters that follow, we use the terms “adolescent girls and young women” (AGYW), “girls” and “young women” somewhat interchangeably. As Pomerantz (2009, p. 148) argues, “disciplinary definitions of the ‘girl’ are both constructions (i.e. artificial classifications) and lived realities (i.e. real experiences) at the same time.” Girlhood scholars refuse to position “the girl” as either a static subject/object, but rather understand girls as complex, nuanced and contextual beings who are able to challenge and disrupt linear/binary discourses (e.g., girl as “powerful/powerless”) (Hayhurst, 2013; Pomerantz, 2009). That is, “the girl” may reflect multiple truths to multiple audiences. The concept of the “girl” or “girlhood” (as a time period before transitioning into womanhood) is also understood, lived, reinforced and regulated differently within and across different contexts. Jones (1993, p. 159) suggests that “girls become ‘girls’ by participating within those available sets of social meanings and practices – discourses – which define them as girls.” Thus, to elude the patronizing and tenuous language associated with “the girl,” we make every effort to refer to them as “young women” or AGYW, with care to take into consideration how this period of life may be experienced very differently within families, communities, cultures, and societies.

Theoretical Underpinnings and Engagements: Feminist Postcolonial and Decolonial Theory

Feminist sociologist Dorothy E. Smith once wrote that “theory is a tool to think with” (cited in Frisby, Maguire, & Reid, 2009, p. 16). Feminist theories, in particular, have been essential for igniting new questions, resisting and countering dominant theories pertaining to social relations, “unlearning” privileges (Spivak, 1990), unveiling complex power dynamics and helping people probe, view and “critique the otherwise invisible and taken-for-granted” (Frisby et al., 2009, p. 16). But feminist approaches are of course partial, contested, and also muddied in coloniality.

Feminist theory has shifted and mutated over the last 50 years, challenged by and responding to activism and academic debate, particularly in reaction to those who were marginalized by the complicity and dominance of privileged feminists. A shift to intersectionality subsequently opened up feminist theory to decolonality, postcoloniality, queer theory, trans theory, women of color feminism, critical disability studies and ecofeminist theory and other environmental, posthuman, and material feminisms that explore the nonhuman (Collins, 2019). And yet, some feminist theories, caution Purewal and Loh (2021, p. 1), have been “implicit and complicit with the modern episteme of coloniality by envisaging a feminism that can operate within the coloniality of power rather than viewing the dismantling of its tools and edifice as a necessary step for epistemic change.” It stands to reason that feminist theories and practices are inculcated in the exclusion of, for example, Indigenous knowledges, gender and sexual minorities, people of color, and working classes (Persard, 2021, p. 14). Our book is framed by, and grounded in, a variety of feminist theories that help put our work in active conversation with other SDP scholars. In doing so, we are not suggesting these are the only useful orientations to explore the myriad of issues encompassed in SGD. However, across the chapters, we mostly engage with and take up feminist theoretical approaches, including: poststructuralism, postcoloniality, decolonialism, political ecology, neoliberal feminisms and new materialisms. Below, we briefly outline the key overlapping features and distinctions between postcolonial and decolonial feminist thought, two key theories that are perhaps the most prominently featured throughout the book.

Postcolonial orientations aim to draw attention to the harmful legacies of colonialism that have been replicated through the directives and destruction of global neoliberalism and nationalism. And yet, it is important to actively contest the idea that “‘post'colonial’ as ‘past'colonial’” and instead, realize coloniality as the colonial past and present (Purewal & Loh, 2021, p. 1). Postcolonial theory is driven by attending to difference, striving to dismantle essentialist understandings of “cultural diversity” and subvert the dominant discourses of imperial Europe (Narayan, 2000).

Postcolonial feminist theory centers on the multiple ways that gender, race and nation interlock to create oppressive conditions that are so often amplified by dominant discourses of representation, development, and power relations; they may be resisted through “counter-narratives” (Geeta & Nair, 2002). In short, a postcolonial feminist lens is useful for unveiling how power is embedded in, and facilitated through, history, place, and political–economic relations (McEwan, 2009). But postcolonial feminist theory has been critiqued for being overly grounded in the abstract – in textual analysis, imagery and discourse; a theory for elites that is overly embedded in abstract postmodern analyses (Collins, 2019; McEwan, 2009). Others counter that postcolonial feminist theory was always a project of decolonization that aimed to represent marginalized people ethically (Collins, 2019). Issues of ethical representation lie at the center of Spivak's (1988) notable critique pertaining to the dangers that the postcolonial critic may encounter in continuing to thrust a “dark vision” of “Otherness,” which she argues detracts from the ability of the “subaltern to speak,” as they are denied full political representation. As Collins (2019) writes, “the challenge for postcolonial theory lies in seeing how its critical theorizing does and might conform to decolonial resistant projects” (p. 109).

In fact, a number of intellectuals and activists have started to move away from postcolonial feminist approaches: instead, decolonial, decoloniality and decolonizing seem to be more favorable (Rodriguez Castro, 2021; Persard, 2021; Purewal & Loh, 2021). The tension between postcolonial and decolonial feminist theory is palpable and worth drawing attention to, for we engage with both lenses throughout this book. While we do not have the space to properly dissect the underpinning difficulties, ongoing conversations and debates in using both approaches, it is important that we signpost some key issues.

In short, a central contention put forth by the decolonial feminists project is that it goes beyond simply studying postcoloniality. Indeed, when post(-)colonial theory is written with a hyphen – the concern is that it represents a period after colonialism: post means “past,” therefore suggesting that colonialism and its effects have been “definitively terminated” (Hall, 1996, p. 243). This is one of the key critiques of decolonial feminists: that, though “decolonization” may have taken place in many Global South nations (for example), those regions are still mired in, and devastated by, the impacts of colonialism and neocolonialism. Decolonization thus more explicitly calls for political action – for not simply criticizing colonial relations but for actively dismantling them (Collins, 2019). Decolonial and postcolonial feminist approaches have also been distinguished spatially (though such static geopolitical pigeonholing may be contested): whereas decolonial feminism has long been associated with Indigenous scholars; postcolonial feminist scholars are more often located in Africa, South Asia and the Middle East (Collins, 2019). If purposefully connected to materiality, questions of global inequality, power relations and control over resources (for example), postcolonial feminist approaches hold the potential to contribute to resistance goals of decolonization. Decolonial feminist approaches prioritize anticolonial thinking and foreground resistance. Linda Tuhwai Smith's call for decolonizing methodologies, for example, presents techniques and opportunities to disrupt, dismantle and deconstruct traditional ways of knowing; and instead, to privilege “indigenous knowledges, voices, and experiences” (Smith, 2005, p. 87).

A number of SDP scholars have taken up the postcolonial theory mantle (Saavedra, 2018), including postcolonial approaches for analyzing and untangling the relations in which SDP takes place within and through (Darnell & Hayhurst, 2011), for studying specific programming (Johnson & Whitley, 2016; Mwaanga & Banda, 2014) and for interrogating the self in SDP (McSweeney, 2019). An approach informed by decolonizing frameworks and praxis, as evidenced by Oxford (2019) and Oxford and Spaaij (2019), offers research on SGD in Columbia. It shows how decolonial theory is especially helpful for explicitly questioning how neocolonialism and postcolonialism underlie SGD programs that, in many instances, tend to reinforce and even perpetuate the role of girls and women in sport and the dominant masculine structures still embedded in the broader structural context of SGD programming. Hayhurst's research on SGD has tried to use postcolonial feminist participatory action research to purposefully connect to materiality, questions of global inequality, power relations and control over resources (for example) to contribute to the resistance goals of decolonization (Hayhurst, 2016, 2017).

Despite these contributions, we suggest the time is ripe to forge new pathways of thought that depart from coloniality in the academy and the overall structures of extant knowledge on SDP/SGD, in an effort to locate “an epistemic reconstitution for feminist thought and yields new methods for consideration” (Purewal & Loh, 2021, p. 7). We thus acknowledge the possibilities, pitfalls and tensions in engaging both postcolonial and decolonial feminist lenses. Though postcolonial feminist theory may arguably lack the much needed sparks of resistance that knowledge projects fueled by decolonization may ignite and perhaps the term “postcolonialism” has “lost its critical edge” (Collins, 2019, p. 114), we suggest it still has traction for generating critical thinking about gender, race, nation, sexuality, class, social inequalities and social justice in and through SGD and beyond. This is especially true as we engage with both lenses (and many more offered throughout this book) as feminist scholars who embrace humility, respect, generosity and a continued commitment to learning with and from our communities of practice (Mokhtar, 2021). However, and in taking a cue from Persard (2021, p. 25), we urge SGD scholars to avoid “deploying the language of decoloniality uncritically.” Instead, and as Persard submits:

We proceed with these tensions with a commitment to pedagogy and praxis that seeks to problematise traditionally oppressive structures of knowledge production and endeavour to create new knowledge formations and pedagogical practices, even as coloniality and its remnants saturate and structure our feminist realities.

(Persard, 2021, p. 25)

For those working in the field of SDP and SGD, such commitments can and should guide our research, teaching, supervision and mentoring, activism, allyship and advocacy.

Overview of the Book

We offer this book as an initial attempt to provide a timely update to a scholarly area that has developed and diversified significantly since the early years of the millennium and has experienced particularly rapid growth in the five years since the last significant studies that initially described the “SGD field” (e.g., Brady, 2005; Saavedra, 2009). Despite the many efforts to better account for the social, political, economic, and cultural contexts in which SGD takes place and the intersections of gender, race, class, and sexuality that influence broader SDP programs and research, our hope is that this book offers further empirical, conceptual, and theoretical developments in the area of SGD (Chawansky, 2011; Hayhurst, 2011; Toffoletti et al., 2018). In the chapters that follow, we try to respond to, and advance, academic discourse in the SDP field, by addressing recent queries posed by feminist sport scholars to better understand how gender inequalities may be transformed and ruptured by an approach that does not simply place responsibility on women and girls. We also provide an explicit focus on fully contextualizing SGD in relation to current and emerging issues in international development.

In Chapter 2, we focus on methodologies in SGD, honing in on researcher and practitioner embodiment, reflexivity, ethics and research relationships. With its focus on research in five different countries, we strive to bring together a multitude of contexts and viewpoints of three scholars attempting to “do” feminist SGD research into a productive conversation. By drawing connections and comparisons across these diverging contexts and our own lived experiences, we discern critically reflexive accounts of what is transpiring in the SGD field transnationally, while remaining sensitive to the importance of community context and local iterations of SGD.

In Chapter 3, we critically examine notions of economic empowerment by considering how commercialized feminism and urbanization come to matter for AGYW in one SGD initiative based in Delhi, India. The purpose of this chapter is to highlight the complexities of economic empowerment messages in SGD by exploring how AGYW in the Goal-Delhi program understood and made sense of economic progress and possibilities in their own lives. The Goal-Delhi program is unique when compared to other SGD projects in that it combines the sport of netball with life skills modules on health and hygiene, communication skills, and financial literacy. This chapter ultimately highlights the changes related to AGYW's understanding of their futures and the challenges they experienced and anticipated as “empowered” young women in Delhi.

In Chapter 4, we discuss the rise in Action Sports for Development and Peace (ASDP) programs targeted at girls and women within the context of the “Girl Effect.” We begin by describing the rise in ASDP programs, considering the potential of noncompetitive, informal sports (e.g., skateboarding, surfing, climbing) for GAD. Following this, we critically discuss some of the dominant discourses in the justifications and narratives of many such initiatives. In the main part of this chapter, we then offer the case of Sport for Youth* (pseudonym) to highlight the efforts employed by this action sport-focused organization to provide girls and young women in Afghanistan with opportunities to participate in sport and education. We then consider the struggles and strategies being employed by local and international staff of the two Afghan facilities in their everyday efforts to support young Afghan girls and women into and through their programs. In prioritizing the lived experiences of those passionate and devoted local and international staff involved in the “doing” of SGD work, this chapter offers insight into how deeply the staff value the opportunities in action sports and associated programs for improving the lives of girls and young women and the risks, reflections, compromises and contradictions they are willing to navigate in continuing this work.

In Chapter 5, we explore the value of feminist theories of space and embodiment for examining the gendered experiences of women working in the field. Drawing upon interviews with eight international women who have spent extended periods of time working for a sport and education NGO in Afghanistan, this chapter reveals the various ways these women experienced and managed their Western female bodies within and across work and nonwork related public spaces. In so doing, this chapter builds upon and extends current literature in SDP by bringing feminist theories of space, culture and embodiment into conversation with empirical material relating to Western women's experiences of working and living in high-risk development contexts. By focusing on the gendered embodied, lived experiences of international women staff within and across organizational and public spaces, valuable insights can be obtained into “the operation of gender within the everyday praxis and experience” (Partis-Jennings, 2019, p. 180) of SDP and SGD work.

In Chapter 6, we draw on postcolonial feminist political ecology theory to unpack the connections between GBV and the environment in SGD programming in Nicaragua. To do this, we discuss the utility of postcolonial and decolonial feminist political ecology approaches – combined with feminist participatory action research – to better understand, and prioritize, young Nicaraguan women's experiences of the environment and GBV as they participated in an SGD program used to promote environmentalism and improve their sexual and reproductive health rights. Throughout the chapter, we make four key arguments: first, complex racialized, gendered and economic relations intertwine to impel both human and nonhuman elements in shaping SGD programming in unintended ways. Second, gendered hierarchies, roles and relations take place and are exacerbated through SGD, especially through the pursuit of neoliberal and colonial development under the semblance of “sustainability”. Third, the prevention of violence to the physical environment is deeply entangled with the prevention of violence against women's bodies. Fourth, the young women participating in SGD interventions are all-too-often “tapped on the shoulder” to do the curative labor, while those who are mostly responsible for environmental damages and violence (such as the government, corporations, etc.) are failing to prevent such destruction from taking place to begin with. We conclude our chapter by suggesting that we must critically account for the broader physical environment, racialized power, new imaginings and formulations embedded in colonial past–presents as human and nonhuman forces continue to shape the experiences of SGD interventions.

In Chapter 7, we explore the ethics of representing girls and women from the Global South in SDP organizational communication campaigns. First, we detail recent shifts in humanitarian communication strategies, with a particular focus on representations of girls and young women from the Global South. Herein we draw upon humanitarian communication and postfeminist literature to explore the political and ethical considerations involved in representing girls and women from the developing world in SDP campaigns. In the latter part of this chapter, we focus on Sport for Youth's∗ social media representations of girls and young women doing action sports in Afghanistan. Drawing upon interviews with local Afghan and international staff members involved in producing online communication campaigns, the chapter reveals some of the nuanced power relations within such media portrayals. In so doing, we also draw attention to some of the unintended consequences of “positive” representations of sporting girls from the Global South, and some of the strategies employed by Sport for Youth to navigate such issues and minimize risk to staff and students.

In Chapter 8, we pivot and provide a unique look at if and how monitoring and evaluation (M&E) systems within SDP can integrate feminist theories and praxis. To do this, we reflect on the planning, delivery and analysis of a MEL workshop that the authorship team codesigned with Skateistan–South Africa. In detailing this experience and exploring an alternative representational style that brings together different voices and perspectives involved in the process, this chapter comes to terms with the broad pressures faced by SDP organizations to respond to the prevailing expectations of what MEL should look like in SDP spaces. This chapter details the relationships between the international and local staff of an ASDP organization with the authors as they explore the opportunities and challenges of developing bespoke M&E skills and capacity in staff.

The book is brought to a close with a generous epilogue from leading feminist SGD scholar, Professor Martha Saavedra. As well as tracing key threads from the book, Martha reflects on the meaning of “development” and “gender and development,” and how sport fits into such categories such that we can build upon the pages of this book (and the body of research that proceeds it) to have more productive discussions of “Sport, Gender and Development” into the future. Martha grounds these conversations in her own experiences with Soccer without Borders, Moving the Goalposts and other collaborative projects before and during the upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Future Trajectories for Sport, Gender and Development Research: Opportunities and Challenges

It is only possible to cover so much in one book. But we hope the offerings in these pages provide a “toolbox” for others to use, to apply, explore and extend upon. Indeed, there is much work still to be done, particularly given the rapidly changing social, economic, political and environmental conditions facing us all, differently. Thus, in this final section, we outline some of the key challenges and opportunities we see in future SGD research, particularly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a review of the field of SGD, Toffoletti et al. (2018) came to the conclusion that while there has been a growing abundance of research on SGD since the early 2000s, there remains a need for further examination and an increased need for research on SGD interventions – especially to better understand gender and sexuality within SDP. Other areas in the SGD realm that require further attention include (but are not certainly not limited to): “race” and antiracism, virtual programming, social entrepreneurship, COVID-19 and the “shadow pandemic”, mobility, GBV, sexual and reproductive health rights, and menstruation. Here we briefly outline these areas and urge scholars and practitioners to consider exploring these areas in future SGD studies, practice and praxis.

The Gendered Impacts of COVID-19 and (Post-)pandemic SGD

We are finishing this book in July 2021, when the COVID-19 pandemic has started to (somewhat) recoil in Global North countries such as Canada and the United States due to (mostly) successful vaccination rollouts that have helped to prevent hospitalization and severe disease (Santoro, 2021). However, countries across the Global South, where many of our research collaborators reside, have had limited access to vaccines – due to hoarding by Global North nations, “vaccine nationalism”, vaccine hesitancy and other (inter)related factors (Santoro, 2021). A number of international organizations, governments and NGOs have raised grave concerns about the ways the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities for women and girls across every domain: health, social protection, economy and security (UN Women, 2021a).

With the onset of COVID-19, there are countless tragedies and losses worldwide, but there may also be some opportunities. The United Nations recognizes that COVID-19 will have “distinct and compounding long-term implications on the safety, wellbeing, and livelihoods of girls and women” (UN Women, 2021c, para. 2). Acknowledging the need to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on women and girls, they state that “there are opportunities for radical, positive action to redress long-standing inequalities in multiple areas of women's lives, and build a more just and resilient world” (UN Women, 2021a, para. 16). These issues are all-the-more pressing to understand, particularly since women and girls (particularly those in the Global South) have been adversely impacted by the coronavirus. A feminist response to the pandemic using a gender lens is urgently needed to focus on the specific risks and vulnerabilities women and girls experience due to deeply entrenched inequalities and traditional gender roles that shape how people of all gender identities experience COVID-19 (Papp & Hersh, 2020).

Indeed, COVID-19 has also led to a number of difficulties in implementing sport-related activities for sport businesses, organizations, events, and leagues – in some instances, resulting in the permanent dissolution of sport-related actors (Pedersen, Ruihley, & Li, 2020). The pandemic has not only highlighted and exacerbated social inequalities for particular populations, communities, and countries (Evans, Agergaard, Campbell, Hylton, & Lenneis, 2020): it has also negatively impacted sport, leisure, recreation and physical activity by and for women and girls (Kelly, Erickson, Pierce, & Turnnidge, 2020; Keshkar et al., 2021). The SDP sector has been similarly impacted, with a number of emerging studies that document how programming has shifted for girls and young women due to the pandemic (Nauright, Zipp, & Young Hoon, 2020). As Keshkar et al. (2021, p. 9) write, “many girls around the world lost contact with the vital support system that sports NGOs and schools had provided.” Though this sudden withdrawal of support has resulted in some innovative solutions for SDP programming and policy; at the same time, it has also amplified inequalities and challenges.

Dixon, Hardie, Warner, Owiro, and Orek’s (2020) case study of Highway of Hope (HOH), a SDP NGO operating in Kenya, is one of the first studies to critically consider how SDP programming needs to flexibly and creatively shift to meet participants' needs in (post-)pandemic life in a Global South context. Specifically, the authors identify three positive experiences of the pandemic: (1) increased family time; (2) opportunity for rest and recovery; and (3) improved access to hygiene. In turn, two clear challenges arose: (1) increased restriction of activity and limited access to resources such as sport equipment; and (2) challenging home circumstances related to economic instability, unemployment, boredom and loneliness (Dixon et al., 2020). Overall, the authors suggest HOH was able to support participants by: (1) providing educational advancement opportunities (through tutoring and study groups); (2) essential supplies (e.g., sanitary pads, sanitation materials); and (3) safe space (e.g., through constructing a space for small-group mentorship). And yet, we still know little about the gendered impacts and differences in terms of (post-)COVID SGD programming:

It is possible that the life course experiences of these young women are gendered in nature…and may not apply to programs that serve boys and girls, or ones that serve primarily boys. Future research should examine the differences in experiences, interpretations, and impacts both of SFD, and of COVID-19 based on gender.

(Dixon et al., 2020, p. 10)

Taken together, we see the (post)-pandemic moment as a crucial opportunity for the SDP sector to “build back better,” especially by “applying a gender equality lens to all ongoing planning and investments in sport” (Donnelly, Darnell, & Kidd, 2020, p. 2). At the same time, we must foreground a postcolonial critique in contemplating discourses of (post-)pandemic “recovery,” “resilience” and “building back better”. In line with antiracist and postcolonial feminist political ecologists' critiques of the turn to “resilence” in the face of natural disasters using a “disaster colonialism” approach, we wonder how such recovery discourses might be “co-opted for individualized, apolitical and neoliberal recovery arguments” (Faria, Katushabe, Kyotowadde, & Whitesell, 2021, p. 89). Here, a “disaster colonialism framing offers new ways to understand the futurities of disaster that reimagine resiliency politically, as ‘gestating new forms of sovereignty and new visions of postcolonial recovery” [(Rhiney, 2020, p. 1) as cited in Faria et al., 2021, p. 89]. Indeed, it is important to critically consider what a postcolonial recovery might look like and the role of SGD in such efforts. Furthermore, local, culturally specific and Indigenous-led approaches to recovery and community-rebuilding should be centralized in such discussions and any future SGD initiatives.

Gender-Based Violence, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Trauma-and Violence-Informed SGD

According to the International Working Group on Women and Sport (IWG, 2020), there is an increasing need for trauma- and violence-informed approaches to reengaging women and girls in sport and physical activity. From this perspective, the IWG noted a number of areas of concern for women and girls due to COVID-19, including: (1) “widely documented increases in domestic violence globally and economic impacts moving women and girls into poverty, may lead to lower participation in sport and physical activity,” (2020, “Area One: Wellbeing”) and (2) “the impact on the physical and mental wellbeing of women who are currently in ‘lockdown’” (2020, “Area Two: Wellbeing”). Thus, another crucial avenue for future research in this area is the utilization of a trauma-and violence-informed approach to SGD. As the COVID-19 pandemic expands and the prospect of a rapid return to ‘normal’ fades, there is now an even more pressing need to focus on GBV and the potential for dissemination of resources and the design, development and evaluation of potential SGD interventions. The prevalence of GBV is astounding: 33% of women in the world have experienced physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives (UN Women, 2021d). COVID-19 has, in turn, created a de facto “shadow pandemic,” and a devastating increase in the number of victims experiencing GBV has been observed (UN Women, 2021c). This is especially true for girls and women living in marginalized circumstances such as socioeconomic inequity, domestic and structural violence, histories of trauma, and racism (Khanlou et al., 2020). Özkazanç-Pan and Pullen (2020, p. 1) draw much needed attention to the importance of recognizing the gendered nature of COVID-19:

Intersectional inequalities sustained by patriarchy and capitalist systems are becoming more apparent and visible. Feminism's progress risks becoming undone unless recognition of women's labour and work is addressed, including its racialized dimensions. This starts with documenting gendered lives and researching deepening inequalities that are continued and perpetuated during pandemic times. Women's roles and labour in their communities, in their workplaces and in their homes (if they have them) require recognition of the disproportionate financial, physical and emotional struggles they continue to experience. Lockdown in many parts of the world has seen gender-based violence become a “shadow pandemic” with medical, economic, and social resources and infrastructure urgently needed […] Ignoring the gendered impact of COVID-19 will impede economic recovery and prolong the crisis.

The pandemic has concurrently strained support services and overwhelmed spaces for women and girls – particularly those provided through the SDP sector – to seek support (IWG, 2020). Face-to-face or in-person activities have necessarily been restricted to limit the spread of the virus but, in turn, deny women access to GBV intervention activities and their supportive communities. In particular, we know very little about the relationship of SGD to GBV prevention programs with regard to: (1) the broader SGD field; (2) gender-specific GBV prevention initiatives; (3) mixed-sex prevention programs; and (4) the integration of GBV content into existing sport activities and programs for survivors of trauma and violence. In short, how might SGD play a key role in preventing and reducing GBV, while also providing access to sexual and reproductive health services? In terms of reproductive health, important work by Zipp and Røstvik (2020) has started to explore the role SGD plays in providing access to menstrual products. They note how “period shame” may result in “harmful myths and restrictions [that] prevent many from participating in important activities” including sport (para. 9).

Indeed, a number of SGD programs and some scholars have started to critically examine the intersections of SGD, SRHR (sexual and reproductive health rights) and GBV prevention (Hayhurst & del Soccoro Centeno Cruz, 2019) and the ways women and girls, in particular, take up these curricula. And yet, the impacts – both intended and unintended – remain understudied. This is a rich opportunity for future SGD research, particularly in the post-pandemic context. Trauma- and violence-informed practice has been identified as a powerful tool to develop appropriate programming and resources for women and girls who experience marginalization (Darroch, Roett, Varcoe, Oliffe, & Montaner, 2020). In short, a trauma- and violence-informed approach is grounded by six key principles, including: safety; trustworthiness and transparency; peer support; collaboration and mutuality; empowerment, voice and choice; and cultural, historical and gender issues (Darroch et al., 2020). We discuss these issues more extensively throughout the book, especially in Chapters 2 and 3.

Virtual SGD Programming

A number of NGOs such as Maple Leaf Sport and Entertainment's (MLSE) LaunchPad (operating in Moss Park, Toronto, Canada) have started to experiment with virtual trauma- and violence-informed SGD programming for women and girls to address inequitable access to sport within its surrounding community due to COVID-19. However, it is crucial to note that many participants still do not have access to technology that would provide virtual SDP programming as an option, especially in Global South contexts (Dixon et al., 2020). Even if virtual programming is accessible, many women and girls may not be able to participate. As Keshkar et al. (2021) warn many young women and girls are overburdened with:

Care work and household chores, and cannot engage in online tasks, let alone those focused on physical education activities. It can be predicted that in the post-corona era, many girls will be unable to return to sports practice, as traditional roles will have set in and their contributions to the local economy and care for the family will be seen as necessary to family well-being and even survival, overshadowing the “luxury” of their sports practice.

(p. 9)

Still, it may be timely and pertinent to expand on trauma- and violence-informed programming using a virtual approach for women and girls with histories of (ongoing) violence/abuse, especially for those living in marginalizing situations (Darroch et al., 2020); situations which have only been intensified by the stress, anxiety and trauma of COVID-19. The complexities of these virtual interventions have been largely overlooked by researchers, practitioners and policymakers; yet, virtual programming is a potentially promising area for the future of SGD in (post-)pandemic life. In fact, a striking number of SDP organizations adopted their programs to virtual spaces in a variety of contexts (, 2021).

A number of scholars have started to investigate virtual opportunities to engage in SDP-related activities through, for example, eSport (Hayday & Collison, 2020; Loat, 2021). Here, scholars discuss how eSport is intriguing for youth who have previously been “targeted” by the SDP community, with the suggestion that – if implemented thoughtfully – eSports may be used by the SDP sector as they evolve and innovate due to the pandemic (Loat, 2021). Similarly, Hayday and Collison (2020) examine the possibilities for SDP via-a-vis eSport. They found that – though participants enjoy the eSport community as a space that fosters social inclusion – these same participants also demonstrated masculine toxicity and discrimination that tended to perpetuate gender inequalities. Taken together, a more nuanced picture of the possibilities pertaining to eSport's ability to uphold social inclusion in/through SDP is called for, especially a more thorough investigation into the gendered dynamics of eSport (Hayday & Collison, 2020). These issues are all the more pressing to critically explore as virtual programming seems to present important opportunities for participants to continue to be involved in SDP and SGD as the pandemic wears on. However, we suggest moving with trepidation and urge practitioners, programmers and scholars not to see virtual programming as a panacea given the well-documented digital inequities experienced by SDP participants in some contexts (Dixon et al., 2020), decreased mobility of participants and related increase in domestic violence related to stay-at-home orders and lockdowns (e.g., Ravindran & Shah, 2020).

Anti-racism and SGD

COVID-19 has drawn stark attention to, and exacerbated, pre-existing social and economic inequalities, and we have found ourselves in an important moment with the possibility to “build back better” by creating more accessible, equitable, and inclusive societies. The brutal murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, United States, by police officer Derek Chauvin, and Breonna Taylor by US police in Louisville, Kentucky, demonstrated the crucial need for antiracism social movements, such as the Black Lives Matter movement, to draw explicit attention to a number of pressing issues pertaining to systemic, institutional and structural racism (Evans, Agergaard, et al., 2020). Importantly, the Black Lives Matter movement also amplified racialized health inequalities and antiracism protests in professional sport both in the United States (e.g., NBA taking a knee during the US national anthem and WNBA players who held walkout protests and who have been protesting about racial injustice since 2016) and around the world. Anti-Asian hate crimes in North America have also been on the rise throughout the pandemic, and many important discussions about the implications of anti-Asian racism and sport in recent years have been well-documented by critical sport scholars (Nakamura, 2019; Szto, 2020). In a context of heightened geopolitical injustices, the number of racially and Islamophobic-motivated hate crimes also continue to grow, devastating local communities and the broader Muslim Ummah (community) around the world.

While there have been some studies in SDP that have critically investigated race (e.g., Darnell, 2007, 2011; Forde, 2015; Hapeta, Stewart-Withers, & Palmers, 2019), there is a need to more extensively consider critical theoretical approaches that are more attuned to the intersection of gender and racial inequality and “the lived experiences of specific people living in racialized communities, including the way that these experiences intersect with the present experiences of COVID-19, the migrant crisis, and the [Black Lives Matter] movement” (Evans, Agergaard, et al., 2020, p. 296). Indeed, GoodPush, an off-shoot of Skateistan – an SDP NGO that we explore in depth throughout this book – launched an antiracism initiative that has been charting important territory in this regard (see The Good Push Alliance, n.d.). While we do not have the space here to do this pertinent area of research justice – or to draw detailed attention to the vast literature on racism and sport – we would be remiss not to stress the crucial need to more fulsomely unpack and critically examine antiracism, racial inequality and social justice in future SDP/SGD work. This is especially pertinent given the current political landscape: a moment where decolonizing sport and physical activity (and kinesiology, where SDP scholars are often working in) is more critical than ever (see Joseph & Kriger, 2021; McGuire-Adams, 2020; Nachman, Joseph, & Fusco, 2021).

Social Entrepreneurship, Livelihoods, and SGD

There are a number of SDP NGOs that support programs that use social entrepreneurial strategies to support the “economic empowerment” and livelihoods of young women and girls; a strategy we have explored, problematized and questioned in many of our chapters (see Chapter 3 in particular) and previous work (e.g., Hayhurst, 2014; McSweeney, Hayhurst, Wilson, Bandoles, & Leung, 2021). Social entrepreneurship is defined as an individual entrepreneur or organizational enterprise aiming to respond to a social problem unaddressed by the public or private sector through business-like practices with the goal of fulfilling a social mission; market growth and profitability are placed in a secondary role (Weerawardena & Mort, 2006).

For example, there are a growing number of bicycle-focused sport and gender organizations, such as World Bicycle Relief, that use social entrepreneurship to empower communities through the provision of subsidized bicycles with practical training for bicycle mechanics, especially women and girls, with the goal of providing women and girls with “greater earning potential” (WBR, 2020). Despite a focus on social entrepreneurial programming among many SDP NGOs, few investigations have focused on the (un)intended consequences of social entrepreneurship and its ability to challenge gender roles and norms through such interventions. Our previous research (Hayhurst et al., under review) has demonstrated how, for example, bicycle-focused SGD programs may: (1) enhance equitable participation in sport and physical activity for women and girls and (2) offer social entrepreneurial opportunities to realize their potential and strengthen their communities. Given the recent growth in research on SDP and social entrepreneurship (e.g., McSweeney, 2020; Svensson, 2017), it would make sense for future SDP research to better examine gender in relation to sport-based entrepreneurship (see Ratten, 2020).

Concluding Thoughts

The three of us have worked collaboratively, and individually, over the years in the “SGD field,” and in other areas of scholarship and praxis. We write this book during what we suggest could quite possibly be a profound and defining moment for SGD. Our goal is to put this project in conversation with others before and after us who see the opportunities and importance of critically, yet mindfully, exploring this space. In sharing our candid stories of the challenges, tensions, strategies and (at times) “wins” that we have experienced through our work in SGD, our wish is to ignite optimism, hope, passion and possibilities for others who are currently – or aspire to be – involved in this field of research and practice. There is so much more opportunity for more ethical, thoughtful, and relevant ways of “doing” SGD research, practice and programming. Perhaps this book is a departure point.

Throughout the pages that follow, we lay bare the gendered, spatial, embodied, discursive and political logics that both inform and are informed by feminist approaches to SDP. We do not engage as much as we could with the specificities and broad diversities and contextual differences among the multiple country contexts in which we locate our research (Afghanistan, India, Nicaragua, South Africa and Uganda). We want to acknowledge here that context remains pivotal to our discussions of SGD, and we do not claim to generalize our findings to make dangerous, homogenizing and essentialist assumptions about how it operates. That is, we recognize that the specific situation and particular geographic location of the programs, participants, communities and nations studies means that it is difficult to generalize this research to other instances of SGD. However, we position this book within Fine, Tuck, and Zeller-Berkman (2008, p. 174) framework of “intersectional generalizability,” defined as:

Work that digs deep and respectfully with community to record the particulars of historically oppressed and colonized peoples/communities and their social movements of resistance, as well as work that tracks patterns across nations, communities, homes, and bodies to theorize the arteries of oppression and colonialism.

Intersectional generalizability recognizes both “theoretical” and “provocative” generalizability. Fine (2008) defines the former as gleaning lessons about social oppression and forms of resistance moving from one context to another. The latter provokes readers and audiences around the world to rethink “the possible,” and asks researchers to “move their findings toward that which is not yet imagined, not yet in practice, not yet in sight” (Fine, 2008, p. 229). We submit that this book has been framed in such a way that it may possibly take up Fine's assertions: let us reimagine a new, (post-)pandemic SGD. One that is full of possibilities, provocativity, critical thinking and (perhaps rather optimistically) hope.