Girls' Got Game: Women athletes help curb teenage pregnancy rate

Isabelle Lee, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 16 2017 05:41 PM | Updated as of Nov 16 2017 05:51 PM

Competing teams join hands as a sign of sportsmanship after a tiring game of rugby. Isabelle Lee, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - It was a welcome break from her weekly routine. On Saturdays, 9-year-old Faye* usually helps her mother wash their neighbors’ clothes. Cash is tight. They have to buy milk for her two-year old brother, on top of the medication Faye has to take. Months ago, she contracted Hepatitis A.

So when an invitation came from a roving sports camp initiated by Girls’ Got Game (GGG), it was an easy yes for the little girl. The camp promised to teach her how to play basketball, volleyball, rugby, and football for a weekend.

GGG is a women-led organization that aims to empower young women through sports. It is driven by ‘The Girl Effect,’ a premise that girls between 10 to 12 years old have the potential to end the cycle of poverty, if only they have access to tools that will boost their self-esteem. Co-founder Nikka Arcilla believes sports can steer girls away from unwanted teenage pregnancies.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, 24 babies were born every hour to teenage mothers from 2011 to 2014. The latest data from the National Demographic and Health Survey also shows that one in 10 Filipino girls between 15 to 19 years old are either pregnant or already mothers.

Arcilla aims to break the cycle through sports. As the former brand manager of a teenage feminine care brand in the Philippines, she was surrounded by statistics about the vulnerability of low-income teenage girls. Arcilla said she also saw how they can be vital to end the cycle of poverty. 

A runner back in her university years, Arcilla founded GGG as a platform for female athletes to give back.


A MILESTONE

After an hour of travel, Faye finally reached the indoor gym. The mood was festive; it turned out to be GGGX, the 10th camp of the organization. This means GGG has already coached over 1,000 girls across the country since its founding in 2015.

The day kicked off with a roll call, gathering all 100 girls from various poverty-stricken communities, most of whom have never played sports. Before they hit the ground running, select professional athletes gave motivational talks. They imparted their experience on how sports improved their lives and gave them access to free education. 

Managing Director Gely Tiu said some girls considered this the highlight of the camp, drawing inspiration from the athletes' stories, especially those who, like them, come from impoverished families. These athletes coached the girls later on.


THE GAMES

Girls practice chest passes in basketball. Isabelle Lee, ABS-CBN News

After getting to know the speakers, the girls broke out into groups to learn the basics. Throughout the training, the coaches emphasized the values of discipline and respect – the core principles of GGG. When Faye was on the brink of giving up after failing to score despite numerous attempts, the coach called her out. There is no room for quitting; she had to keep trying.

This is what sets GGG apart - how it inculcates values and tailors them to the needs of the communities. Partnerships and Sustainability Head Michiko Soriano recalled an instance when a community requested them to talk about the negative effects of illegal drugs. ‘We found a niche market [for] GGG and, as long as we have traction, it means more girls need to be tapped.’


A GLOBAL MOVEMENT

GGG is starting to explore a sustainable business model to expand its reach beyond just setting camps on a quarterly basis. Ultimately, the organization intends to set up chapters in other developing countries, where the impact of girls in sports can contribute tremendously.

For Tiu, a former soccer team captain and coach in her university, the goal is not to turn the girls into athletes, but to simply empower them. ‘Our dream is to make our GGG girls succeed in life.’

This held true for Faye. Despite not winning in any of the four sports throughout the weekend, she left the camp with an invigorated spirit and a renewed perspective. She may not have scored any point in the games, but she is now more confident she can score in life.

(*- name changed to protect identity)