Girls’ wellbeing initiative making an impact in Northland

Issue: Volume 102, Number 6

Posted: 11 May 2023
Reference #: 1HA_o1

A physical and mental wellbeing pilot programme for tamawāhine in the Far North, developed alongside the tamariki involved, has proved so successful it is set to become a permanent fixture.

Go Girls

The successful pilot, which finished at the end of 2022, saw 36 Year 5–8 girls from Opononi Area, Paparore and Pukenui schools take part in hour-long weekly sessions delivered in collaboration with Northern Region Football, KittedNZ, I Am Hope, and Kerikeri Gymnastics.

The sessions were a mix of practical and active learning activities like football, alongside discussions around nutrition, health, and wellbeing.

Asked about their experience in Go Girls, one ākonga said it was fun learning something they wouldn’t normally be doing, while another said she became more aware that she was brave, and a third said she liked to use her energy.

“I liked learning to build confidence to do a handstand,” says one ākonga.

“It was good talking and knowing how my friends feel,” says another.

The success of the programme reflects research from Sport NZ, which suggests that creating an environment that is supportive and fun is the largest contributor to young girls engaging in physical activity.

Although 96 percent of young women aged 12–17 understand why taking part in physical activity is good for them, 68 percent will avoid participating in activities when they do not feel confident in their bodies.

Social judgement and confidence in their bodies and their abilities all factor into a young woman’s decision to engage.

Project coordinator James Coleman says the voice of participants, and taking a holistic approach to wellbeing, were central to the pilot’s design and success. This included workshopping with a select group of students about what content they wanted to cover.

“Mixing the nutrition, health and wellbeing education with the agility and awareness of gymnastics and the balance and coordination of football gave the girls the ability to learn in a relaxed, fun environment,” he says.

He also attributes the pilot’s success to the enthusiasm of the three schools involved, the partners and coordinators’ mahi and the upbeat attitudes of participants.

“The way they interacted, gave new things a go and were open about themselves was truly amazing.”

Go Girls

Success signals growth

With Go Girls set to become permanent this year, another 13 kura in Kaitaia, Hokianga, Mid North and Bay of Islands have signed up.

“They all acknowledged the need for such a programme within their schools and communities and signed up immediately,” says James.

There’s also a new partner, Ngāti Hine Health Trust, which will help deliver the mental health aspect.

“Softball has expressed an interest in being part of the programme, and on top of that we’re looking to create ‘super coaches’ for a unique hybrid gymnastics/football format and experience,” says James.

Sport Northland’s Janine Moy says she is excited Go Girls has gained traction.

“We know that girls participate less in sport and recreation opportunities, so it’s fantastic to see initiatives specifically for girls that provide safe, fun and supportive opportunities, particularly in the more rural areas of Northland where access can be an issue for them to participate.”

Go Girls partner, Kitted NZ’s Jaime Pavlicevic, said the success of the initiative further supported the need for a collaborative and holistic approach.

“This programme provides opportunities to build recreational and social needs for the girls that focus on being healthy, happy and active,” she says.

Go Girls

Holistic approaches

Go Girls is just one initiative supported by Sport Northland that aims to get girls more active through taking a holistic approach to wellbeing.

Two of the initial schools are also part of Healthy Active Learning – a joint government initiative between Sport NZ, Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand and the Ministry of Education to improve the wellbeing of tamariki and rangatahi through healthy eating and drinking and quality physical activity.

The locally led programme, now in over 900 schools across the motu, sees a physical activity workforce from regional sports trusts, like Sport Northland, supporting schools and kura to create quality physical activity environments that are inclusive of all ākonga.

Across Northland there have been several girl-friendly and girls-only physical activity events and hauora days at Healthy Active Learning schools, all informed by the wants and needs of the students.


The #ItsMyMove campaign is supporting young women and girls to be active their way.

A year ago, Sport NZ set out on a mission to build confidence in young women, understand how to make sport and recreation more accessible and fun, and support them to lead healthy, active lives. Learn more at

Physical activity in schools made easier

Sport NZ is committed to supporting schools and kura so all students can take part in quality physical activity and enjoy being active in ways that suit them. This enhances their learning and contributes to their wellbeing. 

Find out more about how Sport NZ is supporting teachers and schools at link).

 Go Girls

All images in this article show students from Paparore School taking part in the Go Girls programme – the first school to do so.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 10:50 am, 11 May 2023

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