The root cause of the problems faced by Las Mujeres is poverty; its many branches impact all aspects of their lives. Las Mujeres** have histories of abuse, abandonment, and/or multi-generational poverty. At the outset of its work, Gracia believed paid employment would lead to the acquisition of self-confidence and agency.
We were wrong.
Las Mujeres enter Gracia’s program lacking trust in their capabilities and their potential. They are often unable to express themselves. Because of their trauma, they may present as feeling overwhelmed, isolated from the group, or disorganized- unable to meet the demands of given situation. They give up easily. If a Mujer doesn’t have the emotional tools to work in a group setting or resolve conflict, and she folds her hand at the first bump in the road, is she employable?
Gracia would say, “no”.
Self-efficacy is widely defined as a person’s belief in herself; it empowers her to set/achieve goals and influence the outcomes in her life. (Zipp, 2017) To Gracia, self-efficacy is foundational to future success. And, coming from lives steeped in chaos, it is something most of Las Mujeres lack. Self-efficacy is a trait that can be acquired. It requires learning to set goals and reach for them. It forces young women to push outside of their comfort zones. It means investing the time to “try, try again.” Simply explaining the need for self. efficacy to Las Mujeres does not help them to acquire it.
This is where Gracia’s mission of Economic Empowerment and sport intersect.
The United Nations has long been a champion of using sport to challenge the status quo. In fact, they have an entire office dedicated to it. The United Nations Office of Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP), recognizes that sport participation can have dramatic effects on young people’s development. Sport can foster self-efficacy and empowerment in young women. It can challenge gender norms. For survivors of sexual abuse, sport can heal body image. Rather than focusing on how her body looks, a girl’s body image can be
transformed into one that reflects upon her as strong and capable. Ultimately, this can reframe a young woman’s view of femininity, leading her to increased self-worth and ownership of her sexuality. (Brady, 2008)
For young women whose lives are hallmarked by chaos and disarray, the rules and boundaries that sport demand introduce order. On the field, girls learn to manage their emotions, win and lose, and develop a strong work ethic and persistence. (Cornelius, 2005)
It provides a safe space to rise and embrace challenge. All contribute to self-efficacy. As girls become stronger and more confident, they begin to trust they can chart their course. By practicing and setting goals, young women start to understand the long-game and invest in the incremental steps leading to success. A strong sense of selfefficacy
positions girls to take on challenges and persevere through difficulties that invariably arise as women, especially business women, striving to achieve in a patriarchal country.
And it gives them strength to use their voice at work, at home, and in public.
Evidence from Moving the Goalposts, a sport empowerment program in Kenya, suggests the longer a girl participates in a sport program, the more likely she is to believe she can make decisions about her life. Girls and young women who acquire both vocational and
essential skills at an early age increase their chances of moving out of poverty and improve their ability to participate in economic growth in adulthood. With the research complete and curriculum in development, in June of 2021, Gracia plans to begin integrating soccer
into its Gracia Entrepreneur Training program with the goal of developing leadership, agency, and of course, self-efficacy.