As a young girl playing volleyball in the city league, I had the opportunity to socialize, develop confidence, and be active. I had an amazing team and a coach that believed in me. As I grew older and began to lead sports programs, I saw how lucky I was to have that opportunity and how in society today, many girls and women still face serious gender inequality when it comes to access to sports.

Woman heading a football on the pitch wearing adidas
Even today, one of the biggest challenges for girls is gender inequality.

In my role as Assistant Manager for Purpose & Sustainability in EMEA at adidas, I have the opportunity to truly live adidas’ purpose that through sport, we have the power to change lives. My main project since joining the team last year has been the Breaking Barriers for Girls project.

The project is a five-year commitment to impact the lives of women and girls by making sport safer, more accessible, and ultimately, more equitable. It looks at systematic issues and puts a structure in place so that we can address these problems from an industry level.

Sunita Kumari standing with arms crossed in a gym wearing adidas
Breaking barriers is committed to opening up access for girls in sport.

Stronger together

When I joined the project, I was excited to have the chance to make a positive impact in the sports community as a whole and change the way we approach access to sport. Building up the capacity of the non-profit sector to better serve women and girls is an excellent way to do this.

The non-profit organizations involved in the project undergo two years of upskilling that enables and empowers them to foster equity and inclusion in their communities, led by the project’s expert partners Common Goal, Women Win, and Soccer Without Borders.

They’re also provided with a tool to assess themselves through a gender equity lens and identify areas in which they can develop. By the end of year one, they are ready to put together their Gender Action Plan, which will be implemented during their second year of involvement in the project with the support of our expert partners.

Driving change in the community

Many talented girls and women are simply not connected with the right organizations or provided with the right occasions to play within their communities. By amplifying organizations that are already in place – and improving their outreach and availability to women and girls – we have a direct impact on the communities. As a result of this work, we are creating an environment for girls to learn a new sport, hone their skills, and feel more confident – all while having fun.

Two women sitting on stairs with arms around each other wearing adidas with football in hands
Creating an environment where girls feel they can be themselves, united by sport.

The project also looks to empower 100 champions and local leaders to drive change. The Breaking Barriers Champions are women who are part of the non-profit ecosystem, and throughout the two years of the program, will be part of a comprehensive curriculum on gender equality. They’ll be supported in a way that will help them realize community projects to increase the participation of girls in sport.

One partner organization, La Rotllana – located in Barcelona – has been part of the project since the beginning of 2021. Led by Angela and Salvador, La Rotllana is focused on promoting inclusion and wellbeing in their community. By offering a wide range of activities, workshops and summer camps that fully embrace arts and sports, the team is already making a positive impact in their neighborhood, with an increase of participation of girls led by Champions Melenny, Jea, Mireia, Judith, Cati, Sheyla and Sunita.

Women walking down the street with arms around each other wearing adidas
The La Rotllana Breaking Barriers team.
Women sitting on stairs wearing adidas
Mireia, Judith and Melenny – Our Breaking Barriers Champions in Barcelona.
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Teaming up to change lives

One of my favorite things about the Breaking Barriers Project? The power of people. One of the ways in which we widen the Breaking Barriers community is by creating paths for adidas employees to volunteer their time and make a commitment to join forces with organizations and Breaking Barriers Champions. As part of my role in driving this project, I recruit and invite colleagues to join this initiative and connect them with like-minded individuals. These meaningful connections trigger support and collaboration across languages, geographies and backgrounds, all to increase the number of girls participating and staying in sports – hopefully, changing their lives like sports did for me.

We are well on track to achieve our targets. We have already seen change, we have also witnessed some amazing, inspiring and unique stories. We look forward to continuing breaking barriers for girls in sport. We’re building the next generation of leaders – both on and off the pitch, and I’m thrilled to be a part of that.

You can join us on our journey to build a more equitable world of sport for girls and women by signing up for the Breaking Barriers Academy.

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