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Corporatizing Sport for Aboriginal Girls: Connecting Corporate Social Responsibility, the 'Girl Effect' and Aboriginal-focused Sport, Gender and Development Programs

Lindsay Hayhurst -SRG 2011

University of Toronto



The ‘Girl Effect’ movement is a global initiative that claims girls to be catalysts capable of bringing about ‘unparalleled social and economic change to their families, communities and countries.’ In response to the Girl Effect, multinational corporations (MNCs) have created “socially responsible” girl-focused development programs across the globe to improve the lives of marginalized girls, and to build on their potential as the next ‘answer’ to tackling global poverty. Many of these programs are known as “sport, gender and development” (SGD) initiatives, and use sport and physical activity to promote girls’ development, especially to advance their health, socio-economic status, education and wellbeing. As the number of corporate-sponsored SGD programs in disadvantaged communities continues to grow, the implications for “targeted beneficiaries” remains unclear. In particular, little is known about the (un)intended consequences of these programs for marginalized groups such as Aboriginal girls, who have recently been targeted by corporate-funded SGD initiatives in Canada. Thus, there is a critical need to understand how Aboriginal girls are impacted by corporate-funded SGD initiatives, as they are one of the most disadvantaged groups in Canada, and are less likely to participate in physical activity.

To address these research gaps, this study will focus on girls participating in SGD initiatives funded by a corporate program for Aboriginal youth in Canada. This corporate program funds Aboriginal sport programming, and also promotes a MNC’s new line of sporting equipment that claims to be “tailored specifically to Aboriginal groups.” The research has the following three objectives: 1) to determine the factors that enable and inhibit Aboriginal girls’ participation in SGD programs in Canada (possibly Northern Ontario and British Columbia; 2) to incorporate Aboriginal girls’ perspectives on corporate involvement in funding, developing and implementing Aboriginal physical activity programming; and 3) to establish what a decolonized SGD program for Aboriginal girls should look like. To accomplish these objectives, the study will use a postcolonial indigenous feminist participatory action framework (PIFPAR), combined with cultural studies of girls, and intersectional theory. Overall, the use of a postcolonial feminist PAR approach combined with decolonizing methodologies will aim to prioritize the voices of girls targeted by SGD initiatives, and will add to policy-relevant research and make policy recommendations based on their needs and perspectives.

SIRC is funded by Canadian Heritage