The United Nations has declared 11 October as International Day of the Girl. And this year, Naomi Osaka, Billie Jean King and a few other influential women in sports are championing the event in association with Laureus.
Over the couple of years, Naomi Osaka has been using her platform as a global superstar to champion various issues such as racial equality and mental health. The 23-year-old has been quite vocal about these issues, and has even taken breaks from the sport to safeguard her mental health.
In her message on the occasion of International Day of the Girl, Osaka claimed that earlier she was worried about people's opinions. Now, however, she feels that there is a responsibility for people to speak up if they have that sort of platform.
Osaka also stated that being an athlete has allowed her to experience many new things and perspectives, which wouldn't have been possible if it wasn't for tennis.
"Regarding my activism on the court, I think it's important to use my voice," Osaka said. "Because for me I feel like I often hold back a lot, and I often worry about what people think of me. But if you have a platform, I think it's very important to use it."
"Sport has changed my world," she added. "By letting me travel to many different places and experiencing so many new things that I definitely wouldn't have experienced if I wasn't playing tennis."
Naomi Osaka has also launched 'Play Academy' to increase girls' participation in sports
Naomi Osaka, along with Nike and Laureus Sport for Good, have also launched "Play Academy," an initiative aimed at increasing the participation of girls in sports. Originally limited to her native Japan alone, the program has now expanded to Haiti and Los Angeles as well.
In that context, the four-time Grand Slam winner wrote a heartfelt letter to young girls stating how sports can help them unlock their full potential. The letter can be seen in the tweet below:
"Play Academy doesn't exist to develop elite athletes - even if you one day might represent your country at the Olympic Games, or be No. 1 in the world," Osaka wrote. "But what I would tell you if I was there with you today is this: Sport can help you reach your full potential. That's what I want for you - to discover everything that sport can unlock inside you."
Naomi Osaka's activism wouldn't have been possible without Billie Jean King, who has been one of the trailblazers for equal rights for over half a century now. On this momentous occasion, King highlighted that women's sports should be treated on par with men's and should receive equal attention and financial investment.
"We have to treat women's sports, and all genders, equally," King said. "And we have to create the investment financially, the enthusiasm, the media. 40% of sports are played by women, and we only get 4% of the attention. So we need just as much attention, but girls are always told, we should be happy with the crumbs. And we have to stop that."
King also stressed on the importance of everyone getting an opportunity to play, including trans people.
"You have to think of us as having the cake, the icing, and the cherry on top, just like the men," she said. "It's very, very important. And we need to include all genders. We have to figure that out, with the transgender situation. We have to make sure that, that everyone has a chance to play.”
She also advised the upcoming generation of female athletes to keep fighting for their due share, and to not just master their sport but also to figure out the business aspect of it.
"To the next generation of women in sport, keep fighting, keep doing the right thing, keep trying to create opportunities, also learn the business of your sport," King said. "Learn the other side of your sport, not just as a player, or as an athlete, but understand the people who provide the opportunities."