Despite numerous international and national policy documents promoting girls’ and women’s empowerment and participation in community sports, the actual access to sport for women and girls is still restricted in several countries. This paper explores the situation in Ghana. Through the analytical lens of Cooky and Messner’s theory of ‘the unevenness of social change’, we analyse the cultural and structural barriers that prevent girls and women from participating in sport in Ghanaian communities. The data material is document analysis, focus groups and semi-structured interviews with male and female officials representing state-funded regional and district sports organisations as well as non-state sports organisations in Ghana. The findings reveal that cultural barriers, rooted in deep-seated cultural norms and structural hindrances that undermine gender-inclusive policies, contribute to the limited participation of girls and women in community sport. Furthermore, the interplay between these cultural and structural factors leads to gender-specific practices and fewer women in leadership positions. Based on our analyses, we suggest that structural changes (enforcing and implementing gender policies) can result in cultural changes (positive gender equality outcomes) over time.
Keywords: Community sport, Ghanaian culture, girls and women, participation, policy implementation and sustainable development