Globally, girls still face all kinds of obstacles to getting—and staying—active. While there are often cultural divides to overcome, the unfortunate reality is that something as simple as not having a coach or mentor who looks like them can also prevent girls from participating in sports. But thanks to the new Gurls Talk x Made to Play Fund, young women—like 21-year-old Mbali Dlamini from Zola, a section of Soweto near Johannesburg, South Africa—are stepping up to make positive change happen in their local communities. Nike partnered with Gurls Talk—an online community created by supermodel and activist Adwoa Aboah where young women can share, talk and listen on issues, such as mental health, body representation and relationships—to find these young women.
Dlamini is one of the first winners of the Gurls Talk × Made to Play Fund, which provides grants to women ages 16 to 25 who are leading projects that use the power of sport and play to help girls 14 and under reach their potential. She is a youth leader and coach at Altus Sport, an NGO that uses sport as a tool for building community and youth and girl empowerment.
Dlamini currently coaches 120 girls (ages 12–14) who live in Soweto in an after-school program she runs through Altus Sport at two different primary schools in the region. With the grant money Dlamini receives from the Gurls Talk × Made to Play Fund, she’s expanding her program’s offerings to include a variety of sports activities, such as cricket, street soccer and silent ball (similar to netball), as well as life skills training that could help these girls learn how to better address common issues including peer pressure and bullying. She also hopes to deliver two, two-hour sessions every week at each school. In addition to the grant, Dlamini will receive leadership development training from Nike partner Women Win to sharpen her skills.
Dlamini is all too familiar with the various setbacks the girls in her program are presented with on a regular basis, which is one of the reasons why she wants to take a more holistic approach and work on building up their social, emotional and physical confidence. She knows from personal experience that when you feel feel stronger and better about yourself, you perform better both on the field and off.