Soccer breaking barriers — Letting girls be girls
“We forced our daughter into marriage at 15 years because it is what everyone here does! We never thought she would amount to anything really! But after the sensitization campaign I realize we ruined her future. It might be late for her but we will ensure her sisters don’t face the same fate” Comments of a mother after attending a girls soccer and sensitization camp.
“During my period, I mostly roll rugs and sometimes toilet paper, but I mostly just stay home and return to school after my periods” Annette, a primary seven pupil from Kamuli District, Uganda, says.
You will hear of lots of similar stories in rural Uganda. From girls being forced into marriages at a very young age to girls using sand or grass rolled in rugs as sanitary pads, the plight of teenage girls in rural Uganda is unimaginable. Girls in rural African are kept at home and are never allowed to do any form of sports, coining the saying “women belong to the kitchen”. Yet, amidst all this, beacons of hope still shine, giving female children the hope for living with dignity and choosing their own future.
Studenthands organization, under the regional
SOCCER IMPACT program, is using soccer as a tool to foster social transformation and empowerment of the rural girl child. The organization hosts girls’ soccer tournaments in rural areas, giving rural girls an accessible opportunity to do sports. During the tournaments, girls are taught about their reproductive health and body changes, as well as inspired to aim bigger. Their parents are engaged in dialogue concerning the dangers of marrying off young girls. All the camp participants are given sanitary pads and scholastic materials. Studenthands partners with different organizations and individuals to make this happen.
“Nothing is as satisfying as seeing a dejected face lighten up! Seeing these girls have an opportunity to do sports and then after sitting down to listen careful is an experience like no other. For us every single smile created is an encouraged to reach out to more areas” Euku Martin, founder and team leader Studenthands organization.
Studenthands believes soccer is the most efficient tool for reaching out to teenagers in rural communities. Whereas many see soccer as just a game, its large influence, diversity and impact cannot be refuted. With only a ball as our material, we have seen ourselves breaking through communities that wouldn’t have welcomed us through other means!!
The organization targets to reach out to 1000 rural girls through 2017. Volunteer teams, fundraising events and all organizations and individuals that want to be a part of this campaign in anyway are welcome to help let girls be girls.