Creating an empowering and inclusive active recreation and sport system


Young women and girls all over the world face similar issues when it comes to sport and recreation. The pressure placed on wahine is tough; adolescence is already a confusing time, and today there are many societal pressures which cause girls to feel intimidated and anxious. Confidence is a big barrier, and it doesn’t help when you feel judged.

Young women desire safe spaces free from judgement. They will generally choose not to participate in environments that condone such judgement and will drop out of activities when they feel continually compared to others for their abilities or their appearance.

As young women get older, the more competitive nature of sport promotes an increasingly pressured environment that can drive them away from participating. Similarly, intimidating or mostly male-dominated environments are more likely to be avoided. The kind of activities young women participate in tend to change from organised physical activities to self-driven activities as they mature. By age 17, the top three activities young women undertake are running, workouts and walking.

Social judgement, body confidence, and confidence in their abilities all factor into young women’s decision to participate, and statistics show young women are doing less physical activity than young men of the same age. There is a 17% gap at age 16, and a 28% gap at age 17. ​​​​​​​

Sport New Zealand's Women and Girls in Sport and Active Recreation Strategy aims to ensure that all women and girls are visible, feel positive about the contribution they make, and value being involved and participating in all levels of play, active recreation and sport.

What barriers do you face to participating in play, active recreation & sport as a wahine in Northland?

Share your experiences with us at this link.


Sport New Zealand’s #itsmymove campaign targets women & girls, encouraging them to embrace an active lifestyle – whatever this looks like for each individual. Formal, organised sports and activities are not the only way to be active!

#itsmymove has collaborated with Les Mills to encourage and support young women to move however they want.

Check out the website to find free online workouts, podcasts, playlists, as well as plenty of information and resources to help wahine move their way!

The importance of ‘fun’ in physical activity cannot be overemphasised; it outweighs and counteracts the stress, emotional pressures, and social & whānau complications in young women’s daily lives. Many young women report the outcomes of physical activity are feelings of accomplishment, self-worth and empowerment. This sense of accomplishment incentivises continued and future participation.

It is clear the confidence levels of girls and young women impact on their willingness to participate in or continue with an activity. Welcoming and supportive environments that focus on positive outcomes and encourage young women to evaluate their competence favourably are critical to keeping them engaged in physical activity. Furthermore, activities that are non sport-specific and promote fun and enjoyment can be a great way to allow girls to gain confidence in movements and activity, improving their physical literacy.

Find more information below:

For more information or enquiries contact:

Zane Davis - zaned@sportnorth.co.nz 

Ellie Eastwood - elliee@sportnorth.co.nz