Adele Bruggeman: Girls’ empowerment through sports

November 26, 2020

Sports as means of empowering girls was something quite unexplored in Adele Bruggeman’s local community in Cape Town. As an athlete herself, who played soccer and lacrosse all throughout her childhood and young adult life, Adele is convinced of the value and potential of sport as a tool for empowerment. Putting this belief into action, she set up Activate Her – an after-school programme for young girls designed to get them moving.

Through Activate Her, Adele works with girls in a newly set-up girls’ school in Cape Town. The programme, which is designed for young girls aged 3-14, started as an educational supplement, but is now a key part of the girls’ school life. This is Adele’s passion project, and she loves running the classes – she says there is nothing like the joy of her pupils not wanting their sports or play time to end, especially knowing how much it can benefit them later in life, as they learn things such as body coordination and control, they develop their motor skills and learn how to be part of a team. It wasn’t easy to begin with, as the girls didn’t initially want to come to sports, and there was a lot of scepticism around Adele herself. But now three years down the line, the girls love it, as does the school – and Adele keeps in close communication with the school’s management to make sure that what she offers is complementary to the broader aims of the girls’ education. There are big aims for Activate Her, all brought together under the umbrella term of gender empowerment; but more specifically there is the belief that the confidence and skills the girls learn, as well as the normalcy of being physically active, will be beneficial to the girls mental and physical health in the long-term, as well as giving the belief that they can also do what the boys do – since sports is so normal for boys! Ultimately, what Adele wants is to create a space for young women who become role models and coaches for the young girls, showing that throughs sports they can learn and be convinced of being deserving of the space they take in the world.

Activate Her works entirely as a non-profit, and so Adele has set up Her Active on the side as the profit-making arm. Her Active is the social business – it is an activewear brand, produced from eco-conscious fabric by women in her local community, but targeted at the US consumer. All the profits from Her Active go straight to Activate Her, but Adele found using two different names gave more clarity to her work. The social business side is what she’s been focusing on throughout her Y&Y Fellowship. The aims of the social business – as big as those for Activate Her – are to break the cycles of poverty for the women who are involved in producing the clothing, and eventually to create a global community of women who care about health and wellness.

Adele has found that the Y&Y Fellowship is giving her exactly what she needs right now. She is at quite an early stage with Her Active, and having to go through all the tasks and stages of the Fellowship is clarifying everything she needs to have ready and prepared to properly launch the business. She found that no other activewear brands are tied to a social impact scheme, such as Activate Her, and this is where she feels Her Active could really make some waves. She also loves the Y&Y community, and having such a direct channel to her mentors is giving her and her business a solid footing for the future.

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