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This is an exciting year for women's sport, with the finals of the Women's Rugby World Cup and the finals of the UEFA Women's Under-19 European Championship, which are both being held this summer. Increasing female participation in sport and physical activity in Northern Ireland is a key priority for my Department, and those tournaments can be used as a catalyst to drive that participation. One of the key targets of 'Sport Matters: The Northern Ireland Strategy for Sport and Physical Recreation 2009-2019' is to increase female participation rates. While much work has already taken place to address that, including work by Sport NI, councils, sports governing bodies and organisations, I have been able to commit a further investment of £370,000 in the 2016-17 financial year to fund initiatives aimed at increasing female participation in sport. Some £250,000 of that money has been provided to Sport NI to work with the Female Sports Forum and a range of other organisations to increase sporting opportunities for women and girls across the Province as part of the Female Sports Forum strategy document 'Women & Girls: Active, Fit and Sporty'.
A total of £120,000 has been provided to Ulster Rugby, the Irish Football Association and the Ulster Council of the GAA, with each organisation receiving £40,000 to take forward activities that aim to encourage increased participation by women and girls in sporting activities and to help build capacity in areas such as administration, officiating and coaching. All that funding is in addition to the initiatives already being taken forward through such Sport NI programmes as Active Communities, Everybody Active 2020, Active Awards and Active Clubs, all of which have specific targets for female participation. Those initiatives will all contribute to increasing female participation rates in sport and physical activity.