Women athletes declare #girlscan
In a matter of hours, two football teams from two different countries separated by the vast Atlantic Ocean will meet in Vancouver, Canada, to face off in the final of the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup.
For these women, the 90 minutes that await them embody a lifetime of struggling to be recognised as equals to their male sporting counterparts and provide the centrepiece upon which the success of an important campaign lies.
The #girlscan campaign, which is being spearheaded by international organisations such as Women Deliver, UNICEF, Right to Play, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), and One Goal is an advocacy campaign which began on June 6, 2015 to raise awareness of how sport can positively influence girls' lives and calls for more research and funding for females in sport.
It also encourages people from all over the world to become advocates for women and girls in sport within their communities. Anyone can join the campaign through social media, where they are asked to share photos of themselves playing sport as well as share the many ways sport has contributed to their development.
"Sport is a wonderful tool for the advancement of women," explained Kizanne James, a UWI medical student and youth leader for the global advocacy organisation Women Deliver.
"It not only improves physical health, but it builds self-esteem, fosters teamwork and provides an avenue for women and girls to achieve their career and personal goals. In the Caribbean, more investment for women and girls in sport is needed."
Jamaica is blessed with amazing women with superior sporting talent, some of whom are already breaking barriers to gender equality and empowering themselves through education.
Sherona Forrester is a 23-year-old Jamaican professional footballer, netballer and basketball player, who also holds a bachelor's degree in economics and statistics, and says sport had been an integral part of her development.
"Through sports I was able to receive a sport scholarship which took me through my undergraduate years at the University of the West Indies. I have thoroughly enjoyed playing sports and I am in full support of other females, whether young or old, joining the lifestyle. It will certainly change your life positively, whether physically, emotionally or mentally."
Jamaica track-and-field athlete Kedeshia Simpson has been running track since age five and has received a full scholarship from the University of Alabama to pursue her undergraduate studies.
"Doing track and field has taught me responsibility, teamwork, and how to mentally focus on something I want, patience, humility, respect and time management," the 25-year-old who is currently living in the Unites States explained.
"I encourage any athlete to learn the balance of education and sports at the same time. If you don't make it to the pro level, you always have your education to fall back on."
For women around the world, whichever team clinches the World Cup title at the BC stadium today, for them, too, it will be a victory, and those interested in the ongoing campaigns can follow hashtags #GirlsCan, #PowerInPlay or #InvestInGirls.
For more information on this campaign, please visit womendeliver.org.