Levelling the playing field: Human capability approach and lived realities for sport and gender in the West Indies


Zipp S & Nauright J (2018) Levelling the playing field: Human capability approach and lived realities for sport and gender in the West Indies. Journal of Sport for Development, 6 (10), pp. 38-50.

Understanding the role of gender in sport for development and peace (SDP) has sparked new and critical research recently, aligning with the focus on gender equality in the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Researchers tend to explore gender in terms of how girls and women access and experience sport. The academic literature often describes sport participation for girls as a form of empowerment, but fails to critically examine the masculinised, heteronormative framework of sport and rarely includes the voices of girls and boys together. This unique study is the first to apply the human capability approach (HCA) to explicitly investigate gender role attitudes from the perspective of boy and girl participants in SDP. We believe it is vital to include voices of all participants to more critically examine how SDP might both challenge and reinforce restrictive gender norms.  This paper is drawn from a research project for a doctoral thesis in Development Studies and focuses on adolescent participants, youth coaching trainees, programme facilitators and government administrators involved in SDP programmes in Barbados and St. Lucia (n=104).2 The primary author conducted surveys, focus group discussions, interviews and journaling to gather the data presented here and in the thesis. Using the HCA as a theoretical framework, we argue that these SDP programmes tend to integrate participants into masculinised, heteronormative forms of sport that may unwittingly reinforce restrictive gender norms for both boys and girls. In order to better support the capability development of all participants, SDP leaders must actively challenge restrictive gender role attitudes of masculinity and femininity.

sport for development; sport for social change; gender human capability; Caribbean; West Indies; sustainable development goals

Journal of Sport for Development: Volume 6, Issue 10

Publication date30/04/2018
Publication date online30/04/2018
Date accepted by journal25/02/2018
Publisher URL…the-west-indies/