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The ‘Girl Effect’ and martial arts: social entrepreneurship and sport, gender and development in Uganda

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In recent years, three notable trends have emerged in the gender and development landscape: the increasing use of sport as a tool to achieve gender and development objectives (SGD); the expanding involvement of transnational corporations (TNCs) in creating, funding and implementing development programs; and the ‘girling’ of development. The last trend has largely been facilitated by the proliferation of the global ‘Girl Effect’ campaign, or ‘the unique potential of 600 million adolescent girls to end poverty for themselves and the world’ (Girl Effect 2011). This article reports on findings from a global ethnography – involving semi-structured interviews, participant observation and document analysis – that considered how sport-oriented Girl Effect interventions impact the lives of girls they target. Using a Girl Effect-focused partnership among a TNC (based in Western Europe), an international nongovernmental organization (NGO) (based in Western Europe) and a Southern NGO (based in Uganda) as a case study, this article examines how SGD programs for Ugandan girls encourage them to become ‘entrepreneurs of themselves’ (Rose 1999) equipped to survive in the current global neoliberal climate using social entrepreneurial tactics such as training to be martial arts instructors combined with activities such as cultivating nuts. Results show how Girl Effect-oriented SGD programs that focus on social entrepreneurship tend to overlook the broader structural inequalities and gender relations that marginalize girls in the first place. I conclude by suggesting that future studies must further explore the socio-economic, cultural and political implications and consequences that social entrepreneurship and ‘economic forms’ of SGD interventions hold for girls.
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Keywords: Efecto Niña; Girl Effect; deporte para el desarrollo; emprendimiento social; gender and development; género y desarrollo; neoliberalism; neoliberalismo; social entrepreneurship; sport for development

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Human Kinetics and Institute of Women's Studies, University of Ottawa, 420C, 125 University Avenue, Ottawa, ON, K1N 6N5, Canada

Publication date: March 16, 2014

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