Girls’ Sport in Northern Uganda: A Postcolonial Feminist Exploration of Definitions and Benefits

in Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal
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  • 1 University of Tennessee
  • 2 Adelphi University
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Sport is increasingly used as a tool for development and peacebuilding to reach an array of populations (Hayhurst, 2009), including girls and women in the Two-Thirds World (Brady, 2005; Hayhurst, 2014; Saavedra, 2009). However, scholars have cautioned against a universal definition of sport considering its historical link to colonization (Darnell & Hayhurst, 2011; Saavedra, 2009) as well as the promotion of universal benefits of sport for girls (Brady, 2005; Larkin, Razack, & Moola, 2007). Therefore, a postcolonial feminist framework was employed to qualitatively explore how 12 secondary school girls in northern Uganda define sport. In addition, participants in this study identified the benefits that they and other girls and women receive from participating in sport. Semistructured interviews were conducted face-to-face and were transcribed, coded, and thematized by the researchers. Trustworthiness was established by engaging a peer debriefer from Uganda and critical awareness of researcher positionality through reflexivity. Results include how the participants defined sport and physical activity, some as a singular and others as a binary concept, and how girls benefit from participating in sport in northern Uganda. The identified benefits include aspects of health, social life, engagement, opportunities, socioemotional development, and competition. Many of these benefits are congruent with literature from within and outside of Uganda; however, the results also indicate a need for a deeper understanding of how communities define and benefit from sport where sport for development programs are delivered. Connections between the results and the postcolonial feminist framework, study limitations and future research directions are also discussed.

Johnson is with the Department of Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport Studies, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN. Whitley is with the Department of Exercise Science, Health Studies, Physical Education, and Sport Management, Adelphi University, Garden City, NY.

Address author correspondence to Alicia J. Johnson at johnsoal@uwosh.edu.
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