Gender Equality, Health Equity, and Sport Participation Among Girls in Peru

Cusco, Peru (March-June 2022)

In colloboration with Fundacion Deporte en Igualdad and Universidad Peruanade Ciencias Aplicados

Project Goal

  1. Identify barriers and facilitators to sport and physical activity  participation in the social and environmental surroundings
  2. Generate participate-identified solutions to address the barriers and support facilitators
  3. Engage the participants in an advocacy-focused group process whereby they presented their data and recommendations to local and national stakeholders to maximize impact


Guiding Question 

What makes it easy or difficult for you and other girls and women to participate in sports or physical activity in Cusco?

Project Description

Increasing participation in physical activity by girls is critical to goals of long-term health and social outcomes and, ultimately, progress toward gender equality. One powerful, inclusive, and globally recognized approach to this end is through the field of sport. The purpose of this study was to improve understanding of social and environmental barriers to and facilitators of physical activity and sport participation by adolescent girls in Cusco, Peru. The long-term goals of this research project are to advance knowledge and action for improving girls’ sport participation and increase the confidence, agency, and empowerment that it can engender. 

This project aligns with The United Nations Sports for Generation Equality Framework and The World Health Organization’s Global Action Plan on Physical Activity 2018-2030, which recognize sport as a catalyst for social and cultural change toward gender equity, and as an underutilized contributor to physical activity globally. The objective was to use a community-engaged research approach to advance understanding of barriers and facilitators impacting participation in sport and physical activity among girls living in Cusco, Peru. A partnership between Stanford University, The Institute for Sports Equality (Fundación Deporte en Igualdad (FDEI)), and The Peruvian University of Applied Sciences (Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas) was developed to engage school-based sites in community participation and research-to-action science. We applied a community-engaged citizen science approach in implementing an evidence-based, participatory mobile health intervention. We then asked participants to respond to the project guiding question via an iterative, smartphone-based, multimethod data collection process (the Our Voice method). 


Fourteen girls participated through recruitment from an ongoing sport and leadership training program conducted by FDEI; we received school site, parental, and individual approvals for all activities. There were 44 data collection time points, 57 photos taken with accompanying rankings (positive or negative), and 52 narratives. High participation rates (78%) occurred across five participant interpretive meetings.

The themes identified included:

  • Discrimination
  • Inclusiveness
  • Maintenance
  • Access
  • Multi-use Facilities
  • Security

Feasibility measures indicated high levels of support and enthusiasm for participants and stakeholders, including parents, school and city officials, and national representatives of Peru’s Federal Institute for Sports, for implementing the findings to enact change.

Strengths Identified

  • The citizen scientists reported how they cherished the chance to fully express their voice on issues that were pertinent to their everyday lives while also proposing actionable solutions. Many also expressed joy in having learned new things about their city of Cusco while being inspired by the possibility of improving it with their own ideas. Some of the central themes identified included:

Identified Areas for Improvement

  • All of the data collection took place on the same day, more or less, therefore, the main area for improvement would be an expanded scope for the project to span more days and include more participants throughout the city.


Activities and Outcomes

On May 18th, 2022, the participants presented their findings to a group of local and national stakeholders representing multiple sectors. Stakeholders included representatives from the municipal government of Cusco and the National Institute of Sports in Peru, in addition to representatives from project partners at the Peruvian University of Applied Sciences, Stanford University, and the Foundation for Sports Equality.

This presentation represents initial efforts to amplify the voices of participants to influence social and environmental change toward improved access and participation in sports and physical activity in their local communities. In addition, this presentation allowed the participants to engage in direct advocacy and practice their leadership skills while developing relationships with local and national stakeholders. 



Themes and Solutions Identified by Citizen Scientists

  • Discrimination – Activities based on stereotypes in sports and recreational spaces. 
  • Services – Activities and quality goods provided in recreational spaces.
  • Maintenance – Waste management in sports and recreational spaces. 
  • Access – Opportunities to enter sports and recreational spaces.
  • Multi-use Facilities – Spaces in good condition are available for physical activity or sports.
  • Security – Safety risks in sports and recreational spaces and surrounding areas. 

Dozens of solutions were posited by the citizen scientists. Some key, actionable ideas are as follows:

  • Maintenance: Ask the Municipality to install garbage cans in the sports facilities.
  • Security: Create a partnership between the Municipality and the National Police of Peru to make sports facilities safer, especially for girls and women.
  • Services/Inclusiveness: Dissemination of hours of operation and availability of the spaces to all.
  • Multi-use Facilities: Adapt sports facilities for other disciplines (not just soccer) and offer bathrooms and dressing rooms for girls and women
  • Access: Implementation of ramps and clear signage, improving accessibility for people with disabilities.
  • Discrimination: Include advertising posters from various disciplines promoting diversity and inclusion


  • Other Solutions Included:
  • Survey and interview others on their opinions about stereotypes in sports. 
  • Request training workshops from the Municipality to promote gender inclusion in sports. 
  • Hire staff to care for courts and fields and require that courts be left clean after use. 

People and Collaborators

Project Lead(s): 


Collaborating Organization(s) / Institutional Partner(s):

  • Thalia Simich, Fundación Deporte en Igualdad
  • Macarena Scarafia, Fundación Deporte en Igualdad
  • Daniel Cino Barreda, Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas

Associated Publications

  • Pedersen M, Simich T. Community Engaged Citizen Science for Physical Activity Equity in Peru. Stanford Catalyst Program: Motivating Movement Research Meeting (November 2022).
  • Pedersen M, King A. How can sport-based interventions improve health among women and girls? A scoping review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. In revision. February, 2023. 
  • Pedersen M, Simich T, Scarafio M, Barrera D, Blanco-Velazquez I, Campero I, Banchoff A, King AC. Using the Our Voice method to promote equity in physical activity and sport participation among girls in Peru.  International Society Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity Annual Conference, Uppsala, Sweden, June 2023.
  • View the associated media coverage: Fundación Deporte en Igualdad
  • Watch the OurVoice Cusco Video

For more images, visit the Fundación Deporte en Igualdad Instagram page!

Funding Source(s):

The Stanford Catalyst Program

Point of Contact for More Information:

  • Maja Pedersen: 
  • Thalia Simich: 

Our Voice Impact

"This experience has changed my life.  I see inadequacies everywhere I go as it relates to pedestrian access and safety.  I even stop [at] construction sites to remind them to be considerate of the handicapped in our community.  Thank you all so much for this awareness and empowerment to require change."

~ Pam Jiner, GirlTrek Advocacy Leader, Denver CO