What does Go Sisters mean to Fiona, the girl who started the World Series?
It's the opportunity to change a life!
A young advocate in the making, Fiona Campbell made her first feministic stand at St Margaret's Primary School in Polmont, Falkirk. An important member of the school football team, Fiona was the only girl participating among ten boisterous boys. 'During my break and lunchtime I would always play football, it didn’t bother me that I was the only girl’ remembers Fiona. It wasn’t until the prospect of an away football fixture that Fiona realised her femininity would provide an unwanted obstacle. ‘It was decided that it would be too problematic for a girl to attend away fixtures, because most facilities at the time didn’t have any female changing facilities. I’d watch my brother play football most weekends and I’d always ask his manager when he was going to start a girl’s football team. Sadly his reply was that he had four daughters at home, and sport provided him with escapism from women.’
A Lifetime in Sport
In contrast to her experience in primary school, Fiona has reached incredible heights both personally and professionally in the world of sport. She believes that women’s sport has developed dramatically in recent years emphasising that young girls now have far more exposure to sporting role models than in previous years; although we (men and women) must continue to aspire toward a culture of equality in opportunity and in publicity for womens sport to ensure that all young girls are afforded the opportunity to excel. Fiona continued ‘it's refreshing to see how far women’s sport has evolved. It’s fantastic to see that most primary and secondary schools cater for girls' sport and physical activity, it’s at the top of everyone’s agenda’. This is part of why Fiona is passionate about promoting women's sport and encouraging participation; creating these opportunities is at the heart of Go Sisters World Series, a programme that is immensely close to Fiona's heart.
Recalling her time growing up, Fiona looked to her peers to provide her with sporting inspiration and encouragement and this helped Fiona represent Great Britain at Junior World and European Championships in the sport of Canoe Slalom. ‘I had a group of friends that I trained with from my canoe club who were all achieving great success and rising up the ranks in the UK, which ultimately spurred me on.’ Friend of EduSport's sponsorship programme, which Fiona now oversees, takes a similar structure: we support a network of inspiring young sports leaders with their school fees, to allow them to continue to inspire and lead their peers in community activities.
Fiona emphasises her belief that the media have a considerable role to play in enhancing female sports participation and uses the example of the recent Women's Football World Cup. 'I was so pleased to see the success of the FIFA Women’s World Cup and I think the debate this event created turned people on to a new way of thinking'. The Women's World Cup is the highest level of football for women and should be shown and celebrated for everyone to see around the UK and the world. ‘The media also presents ahtletes like Heptathlete Jessica Ennis in such a positive light, which is fantastic for women’s sport’ and illustrates what positive press can do for the image of a given sport: 'It is vital female role models are highlighted for their sporting performance and the athleticism rather than sexualised in the media, to this end there is more that still needs to be done.'
Considering the potential that London 2012 has to inspire budding athletes, Fiona hopes that the Olympics will further highlight women in sport and encourage young people to become more active. ‘Next year is a huge opportunity for the British media to represent female athletics at their best. I think that 2012 could be a really exciting year for UK sport, especially because of the profile that it will be given across the country and of course the Go Sisters World Series where we hope to have 10,000 participants advocating for women in sport whilst raising vital funds to support young people from some of the world's poorest communities with access to education. I don’t know how long sport will be at the top of the political agenda in the UK, so 2012 is a key year for us. We all need to get active and get involved to make sure that sport remains high on the agenda for our polititians.'
Recognising a link between sport and fashion, Fiona understands that many women feel that they’re compromising their femininity if they participate in male dominated sports. ‘Looking back to the 1980s and early 1990s, the elite sportswomen represented in the media weren’t considered to be stereotypically feminine. Netball is considered to be a feminine sport because you wear skirts, but sports such as football and rugby are faced with old school stereotypes. Thankfully more and more female athletes are challenging stereotypes through participation and this has contributed to Adidas and Nike creating sportswear that’s deemed both fashionable and practical, I love that you can have both’.
Reflecting on her own experience and desire to remain at the cutting edge of sport and development Fiona is keen to encourage women and men to consider equality on an international level. ‘I think that I was very aware of the challenges that female sportswomen in the UK face, but it wasn’t until I travelled out to Zambia that I was made fully aware of the prejudices that African women experience’. With far less opportunity to participate in sport than their male counterparts, women must also combat the challenge of a male dominated culture where men more often than not play the pivotal role in government, business and sport whilst women take care of the home, children and prepare meals. Women account for three fifths of the people living in extreme poverty and according to the Global Poverty Project women perform two thirds of the world's working hours yet earn only one tenth of the income. Women such as Annie Namukanga who had to work really, really hard to get permission from her parents to go to the football field should be celebrated as true female sporting role models.
Now accustomed to overcoming challenges in white water and more recently, coaching for Scottish Senior and Junior teams in canoe slalom, Fiona continues to promote female equality through sport via the Go Sisters World Series. She believes that sport can inspire women to believe in their own potential. The Go Sisters World Series gives us all a chance to take part in something different, to get a taste of a new activity whilst raising funds and awareness that will support increased opportunity in education in some of the worlds poorest communities.
You can take part as an individual or as a team. Between the 5-12th March you can register and lead an activity that celebrates women in sport. Justgiving pages are being set up apace, and exciting challenges have already been set - but we need more people, more women and men to take part, to advocate for equality, to advocate for opportunity, to say "Go Sisters: We can do it".
‘The milestones that Go Sisters programme in Zambia has achieved is just phenomenal, both on a sporting and a social level. The Go Sisters face so many barriers, but they continue to fight because they are passionate about sport and believe in what they do.’
The Go Sisters World Series connects opportunity with potential for women, from women for equality in countries and communities from all around the world. This is what the Go Sisters World Series means to me.