Footballer Charlotte Lynch talks about championing girls in sports and beyond.
I joined my very first football team when I was 11 – but it wasn’t a girls team. My mum asked my brother’s coach if I could be included in the squad as there were no girls teams in the area. She fought for me to participate in those training sessions as an equal.
This was the beginning of my journey- I’ve gone on to play for Millwall and Leyton Orient, and I’m also a sports journalist and football content creator. It’s given me so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have otherwise had.
My faith grounds me and that’s where I draw my strength. When I feel like giving up, I remember the younger players that might be looking up to me. Children, especially girls, need people on their team, cheering them on, to help them believe in themselves. There’s no doubt that I am where I am today because of a team of people. Even outside of the sports world, most of us living fulfilled lives have a group of caring adults to thank for championing throughout our childhoods.
My faith grounds me and that’s where I draw my strength.
As the Women’s World Cup begins this month and players from around the world travel to compete, I’m reminded of girls living in poverty without access to the same resources as I had or the people to encourage them and advocate for them, be excited with them and find practical ways to help them pursue their dreams.
The data concerning girls around the world, especially those living in poverty, presents a daunting reality. Globally, girls face a higher risk of abuse, exploitation, and denial of their basic rights. Human trafficking disproportionately affects women and girls, with 7 out of 10 victims falling into this category (UNODC). 130 million girls worldwide are denied an education, and 70% of the world’s hungry are women and girls (UN).
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To overcome these challenges, girls need concerned, loving adults and communities of support to protect and champion them. For many years I sponsored a child with Compassion UK, an international child development charity. Compassion’s holistic child development programme provides incredible teams of dedicated individuals – all investing in each child’s life to equip them with the skills and self-belief they need to overcome poverty for good. Their contextualised programmes support children’s physical and mental well-being, giving them access to education or the motivation they need to be self-sufficient in the future.
One of these girls is 12-year-old Karla who was vulnerable to targeting by dangerous gangs in her El Salvador community. Finding escapism in football, Karla often hid in her house, watching the game. When she visited the Compassion project in her community for the first time and saw a football lying on the ground, she knew she had to try it for herself.
I’m reminded of girls living in poverty without access to the same resources as I had or the people to encourage them and advocate for them.
Her skills grew quickly and, seeing her potential, her coach offered to support her in joining the local team, progressing to become their captain. Karla’s grandmother is her biggest cheerleader, but she needed help to get her to practices, which her coach also offered to help with. Thanks to the encouragement and support of her grandmother, coaches, and all the staff and volunteers at her Compassion project, Karla is chasing after her dreams of a bright future.
I’m advocating for girls like Karla and I want to see girls around the world being encouraged to fulfil their God given potential.
Find out more about how Compassion UK helps girls here.