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Sports for Development: Another Avenue to Gender Equality

Girl Up Initiative Uganda has added an exciting element to the Ni-Yetu Youth Program- using sports as an avenue for youth to reach out to their peers and inspire them to create change within their lives. Girls and boys football clubs will be integrated into the Champions of Change project that is part of the Ni-Yetu Youth Program. The Champions of Change curriculum was developed by Plan International to promote gender equality and positive social normsthrough using a peer to peer mobilization approach. The approach focuses on using dialogues to enable youth to reflect on their personal attitudes, perceptions and behaviors and how they can modify or change them to be change agents for gender equality and healthy living.

(Photo: City Ladies team after a day of football)

For the past week, our team has been traveling around Kampala conducting a mapping exercise of all the girls and boys football clubs in the Kampala District to identify one boys football club and one girls football club to join the project. GUIU has successfully selected a boys group called Obuntu and a girls group called City Ladies. All the members of the football clubs are young people, mostly out-of-school and between the ages of 10-24 years.

(Photo: Obuntu Boys Football Club with Project Officer, Clare)

Doreen, the female coach from City Ladies, told the story of how she started the football club for girls last year to encourage girls to explore their talents instead of becoming idle and disorderly. It has also been an effective way to bring girls together from different backgrounds:

“We have so many challenges as ladies, but when we play with the same ball,

we can help each other fulfill our dreams”

She explained how playing football as young women has also challenged societal perceptions of girls’ abilities to play sports.

(Video: City Ladies cheer!)

The Ni-Yetu Youth Program has chosen to use football groups as an entry point to reach out of school youth for the Champions of Change project. Football, and sports more generally, has been proven to be a cost-effective and flexible tool in promoting peace and development objectives (UN Office for Sports and Development, 2014). It is a way to bring information and knowledge to spaces where youth are, while also deconstructing traditional gender roles and stereotypes. This is because transforming young boys’ and men’s attitudes and practices on SRH will enable them appreciate the need to involve their sexual partners in decision making especially regarding safe sex, as well as empowering girls and young women to take control of their lives and negotiate for safer and equitable sex.

For this project, Champions of Change facilitators will be trained by our team so that they can effectively conduct monthly outreach sessions amongst the girls and boys football clubs. These sessions will provide the space for youth to interact; learn about sexual and reproductive health (SRH), life skills, environmental and empowerment information; and share their own experiences on gender equality, SRH, and positive social norms. Our team looks forward to witnessing, and sharing with you, how sports can be used as a platform for social empowerment and gender transformation. Stay tuned!

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