For female athletes, the strength and exhilaration that they experience on a soccer field or a running track can also extend into daily life. Rose Nathike Lokonyen, Olympic refugee athlete and UNHCR High Profile Supporter, put it best: “The experience that we had in the Olympics is that when I was selected as a flag bearer, that gave us hope, especially to refugees around the world.”

It has been proven that when girls and women have access to team sports, they are able to cultivate critical skills — confidence, leadership, and problem-solving — that also serve them well in their personal and professional lives. When girls see female athletes overcoming adversity and challenging stereotypes in sports, they are also more likely to believe in their own potential and abilities, and their fundamental right to be equal everywhere.

“It is in the field of competition that I think we have one of the best chances to change perceptions of what girls and women can do and what they should get to do,” said UN Foundation Vice President for Girls and Women Strategy Michelle Milford Morse.

Sports can be a safe space in which girls and women can cultivate strong identities and hone the skills they need to succeed off the field as well.

Inspired by this post? Hear from more gender equality champions and changemakers by watching #EqualEverywhere: Champions for Change.

Featured Photo: Stanley Black & Decker