Community 50% of Girls are not Participating in Sports by the Time they...

50% of Girls are not Participating in Sports by the Time they Reach Adolescence

Fast and Female participants at the 2nd annual Scarborough 5K

In 2016 Canadian Women and Sport published (CWS) a study that found 41% of the country’s girls between the ages of 3 and 17 don’t participate in sport. Where most girls participate in sport as young children, adolescent girls drop out at a much higher rate than boys. Post-pandemic, CWS found that 1 in 4 girls who participated in sport were not committed to returning to their sport. By age 16, it’s 1 in 3 adolescent girls who drop out compared to 1 in 10 for boys. The downward spiral is shocking. With fewer and fewer girls participating in sport, it diminishes the opportunity to compete amongst their peers. The lack of opportunity to ‘play’ sports during the pandemic, coupled with physical changes to the body due to puberty, has left adolescent girls’ views about their bodies in a poor light as well as the mental toll of feeling out-of-shape and unable to keep up with their peers. Loss of a social network and other factors such as cost and access contribute greatly to the downward trend. This trend has lasting effects into adulthood where 84% of women don’t participate in sport.

Hill Run Club, meets weekly to create a space for body positive, size inclusive, culturally sensitive mindful running club. The focus is on self-care, fitness and community.

Enter Fast and Female and their way of reshaping girls and women’s inclusion in sport. The organization considers the intersectionality of girls in sport, such as race, religion, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation and abilities and strives to create an environment that is engaging in order for girls to be empowered through sport and become the next generation of leaders.  

Fast and Female not only offers opportunity and access, but is striving to reach girls to positively impact them in physical and mental capacities with their mandate of:

  • Create social belonging
  • Prioritize health
  • Promote relatable women role models
Co-founder of the Scarborough 5K Melanie Murzeau with The Honourable Mitzie Hunter, MPP, Scarborough-Guildwood

At the start of summer, iRun met with Gabriela Estrada, Executive Director of Fast and Female, at the 2nd annual Scarborough 5K, who explained the significance of their partnership with Black Runners of the GTA (BRGTA) and their event, the 2nd annual Scarborough 5K.

How did Fast and Female get involved with the Scarborough 5K? 

Fast and Female was fortunate enough to be involved with the Scarborough 5k through Melanie Murzeau, co-founder of the Black Runners of the GTA and the Scarborough 5k. Melanie and I were connected through Kirsten of Women Run Canada Podcast, after we were both guests on separate episodes! Melanie and I both spoke of our love for Scarborough. We had the opportunity to meet in person in 2022, and from there, the brainstorming to work together began. We were chatting about the Scarborough 5k and running some pop-up runs together. Melanie let me know at the end of 2022 that Fast and Female was going to be listed as a charity for the Scarborough 5k and I was ecstatic! Being born and raised in Scarborough, it was such a full circle and special moment to know we’d be a charity for the run. 

I understand Fast and Female is a national organization, is there a location or programme located in Scarborough?

We do run programs and events across the country in collaboration with partners and like-minded individuals. Ontario is one of our most popular provinces, with us having ran quite a few events and programs in the GTA. Most recently, in Scarborough, we collaborated with Girls & Women in Motion(GWIM) to do the Built to Run(BTR) program—a women’s running program leading up to the Scarborough 5k. We are partnering with GWIM again to continue BTR this summer, alongside supporting their Built to Play Girl’s Soccer Program. Additionally, we are hoping to run a 5 week girl’s program in 1-2 locations in Scarborough this fall. Stay tuned on that!!

Fast and Female at the 2nd annual Scarborough 5K event






How many people from Fast and Female participated in the event? 

We had a group of sixteen women from our Built to Run program conquer the Scarborough 5k! These ladies all crushed it and we are so proud of them!! For some of them, it was their first registered run which was just so amazing to be a part of. 

What do you think sets Fast and Female apart from, say, physical education in public school? 

I think this is a tough one because one of our goals is to work closer with schools and be in schools to support their physical education curriculum and opportunities. Oftentimes, physical education and sports programming is one of the first budgets to get cut in the school system; and most of the time, when it comes to extracurricular activities like sports teams and movement-based clubs, these are run by volunteer power and exceptional teachers who are willing to go beyond their roles and responsibilities to provide opportunities to their students.

What do you mean?

Unfortunately, with the limited budget and people power, there often aren’t enough physical activity opportunities; and when it comes to physical education within the schools, many schools don’t have the space, budget or capacity to provide additional support to their students to reduce barriers to participation. This includes girls’ only opportunities. When you look at the data on girl’s participation in sport and physical activity, 50% of girls in Canada are not participating in sport by the time they reach adolescence (Canadian Women and Sport, 2022).

That’s a scary stat. 

Now think of where you get access to sport and physical activity ‘automatically’? In school! And if schools don’t have the resources to further support their girls, creating girl’s only opportunities, having more girl’s only sport teams, clubs—then we’re further losing girl’s at a time when sport can really support them.

What can be done? 

That’s where we want to come in—we offer girl-centred, girl-focused programming that’s evidence-based and developed through an intersectional lens. We collaborate with professionals and leaders in the industry, like academics, registered psychologists, coaches and more, to support us in developing our curriculum and materials, and then we go a step further and work with girls, like our National Youth Advisory Council, to take a ‘for the girls by the girls approach’. Ultimately, our goal is to become a partner and collaborator with others, like schools, to help fill in the gaps and support them in empowering more girls through sport and physical activity. 

The start of the kids 1K race at the Scarborough 5K






What do you hope will come out of your involvement with the Scarborough 5K?

One of my big hopes and dreams since joining the Fast and Female team back in 2018 was to bring opportunities to girls and women in Scarborough. Running events and programs in the community that raised me and see the impact we can have! The Scarborough 5k was the spark and start of this and I can’t wait to see what we do next!

The team at Fast and Female team is small but mighty and of our six staff members, three are in Scarborough! So we are always looking for opportunities to be in our own community and empower girls and women in Scarborough.

Sport isn’t only about competition, it’s about bonding over common goals, building those relationships to work together to problem solve. By using kindness, empathy and care, let’s hope grassroot organizations can create the foundation for girls to better physical literacy that will carry them through into adulthood and help to bring down the statistic of 84% of women not participating in sport.  

The Scarborough 5K and 1K kids event was held on June 3, 2023 and was a sold out event.  Created by Melane Murzeau, co-founder of Black Runners of the GTA, the event strives to uplift the community in Scarborough and provide access to running. Fast and Female were added to the list of charities that include the BGC East Scarborough and Indigenous Spirit Fund.

For more information about Fast and Female, visit them online here.