Updated: Nov 28, 2021
Pictured: Girls from Nanyuki, Kenya posing with their sports bras from Replay It!
For most female athletes in the United States, sports bras are considered a basic necessity. Running would be near impossible without sports bras, as would soccer and a plethora of other sports. However, such a necessary item for females is considered a luxury in many parts of the world. The lack of access to sports bras and other adequate equipment prevents girls and women from participating in sports, further growing the gender gap in sports.
why sports bras?
Outdated views have long favored men over women in sport. While men were considered athletes, women were viewed as caregivers. In present day, many countries have adopted increasingly progressive views acknowledging that both sexes are equal in their ability to participate in sport. However, many countries still abide by traditional societal standards, in which household comes first for females. Notably in Ghana and Nambia, women have far fewer, if any, opportunities to participate in sports. And though much progress has been made in much of the world including the United States, females continue to have visibly less participation rates than men. According to the Women's Sports Foundation, boys have an annual average of 1.13 million more opportunities than women in sport.
Especially in countries continuously upholding traditional views, cultural expectations often prevent girls and women from participating in sports. Therefore, access to sports bras, needed for females, is quite limited. And, if one cannot gain access to a necessary piece of equipment, they will not be able to play. Even if they do have access, cost is an entirely different problem. In homes where resources are particularly limited, food, shelter and water take precedence over sporting gear. Unfortunately, this is the case for so many around the world. According to Jordan Palmer, of Akwaaba Volunteers in Ghana, “The majority of households that we are working with are living in poverty where they struggle to feed all their children twice a day… [thus] Many young girls don't have a standard bra to wear to school let alone a sports bra. The cost of a sports bra is around 20-30 [Ghanaian cedi], which could feed your entire family for three days.”
Expense, limited availability, societal expectations and opportunity gaps are further contributing to the falling numbers of females in sport. By providing underprivileged females with sports bras, we can remove the barriers of expense and availability so that women have the capability to play. With increased participation rates, we can begin to change societal expectations that women are less capable of participating in sport. Because the truth is: women in sport are a force of nature. Whether it be a Tokyo Olympian or a youth soccer player, females in sport continue to defy odds and shatter barriers thought never to be broken.
how can I help?
There are a number of ways to help. Sports bras are compact and easy to ship, so consider donating your old, gently used sports bras to Replay It. Because of their versatility, we are working to get sports bras all over the world. In fact, we recently donated sports bras and other athletic wear to the Women One Center of Worth in Nanyuki, Kenya.
While we are currently running a sports bra drive, you can donate at any time. Another organization which focuses solely on sports bras is The Sports Bra Project (https://www.thesportsbraproject.org). Visit www.replay-it.org or reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.