“More girls should play football as it helps keep us fit and helps to promote gender equality”
- Halimatu Mansary, Southern Queens Captain
Life is tough for Sierra Leone’s girls, 44% are married before their 18 birthday with many dropping out of school when they become pregnant With many families ripped apart by the civil war, young women struggle to support younger siblings often resorting to transactional sex to make ends meet.Life is tough for Sierra Leone’s girls, 44% are married before their 18 birthday with many dropping out of school when they become pregnant With many families ripped apart by the civil war, young women struggle to support
EDUCATION AS POWER
With little money, families may only be able to send one child to school and often choose a son for the privilege of education.Yet staying in school helps helps girls avoid early marriage and…With little money, families may only be able to send one child to school and often choose a son for the privilege of education.Yet staying in school helps helps girls avoid early marriage and…With little money, families may only be able to send one child to school and often choose a son for the privilege of education.
NOT JUST FOR THE BOYS
Football is a national obsession in Sierra Leone and not just fort he boys. From kicking a ball in the red dust to crowding round a television watching the British premier league there, football is everywhere. Through our Empower Educate Esteem project we have harassed this passion for football to offer younf women scholarships an training.Football is a national obsession in Sierra Leone and not just fort he boys. From kicking a ball in the red dust to crowding round a television watching the British premier
EMPOWER- EDUCATE- ESTEEM- DEVELOPMENT THROUGH SPORT
In response to the challenges faced by young women in Sierra Leone and their rapidly growing participation in organized football, Advocate Plus intends expand its pilot project (in Bo City) to the other major urban centres in Sierra Leone. The project aims to support young female football players to gain leadership, life skills and complete their secondary school education.
The main project activities include: establishment of a Girls Soccer League; promotion of positive encouragement through training of coaches, pairing team leaders with mentors in theircommunity, training in leadership and life skills development, sexual and reproductive health education and supporting girls to stay in school by providing tutoring for academic support and secondary school scholarships for exceptional participants.
In Sierra Leone, teenage girls are faced with many challenges that inhibit them from completing their education. Without their secondary school education, young women are likely to be unemployed, have untimely pregnancies, become victims of sexual exploitation and continue in the cycle of poverty that plagues the country.
Education transforms the lives of young women. As Ernest Bai Koroma, President of Sierra Leone, states:
“Change is possible. Girls hold the key to a society without poverty. With the right skills they can invest in themselves, and later in their families. If they are able to stay in school, postpone marriage and build their capacity, they will have more time to prepare for adulthood.”
Although well-understood by the president, the education of young women in Sierra Leone remains low on the priority list of many households. The cost of education is a large barrier to young women attending school. Most families have limited resources, and plenty of responsibilities around the house, and so most young women lack the opportunities to complete their high school education without interruption.
Unfortunately, low education levels and graduation rates are only the beginning of the challenges that young women face. Less educated women are less likely to be economically independent, thus more reliant on men for their survival. According to (ILO) 2008 global report, approximately 70% of those who live under one dollar a day are women. Women and girls, as the majority of the world’s poor, are also the most vulnerable to the effects of rights violation. With lower levels of education and little economic independence from men, many women have little voice in their homes and communities to speak up for their rights, and few opportunities for engagement with policy-makers. This environment perpetuates a cycle of disempowerment, poverty and exploitation. There are few successful women leaders in the targeted communities that advocate for the rights of women. Without leadership in these communities, women’s rights, including their reproductive and sexual rights are regularly violated, while the perpetrators go unquestioned and unpunished. For teenage girls, especially those with low-levels of education and lacking the confidence to speak up for themselves, their situation is especially precarious.
Teenage girls have little opportunity for exposure to, or involvement in activities wherein they may build confidence and learn skills that can promote their social and physical development. Many girls, for example, are current members of female football clubs across the country, but without financial support, many teams do not have the opportunity to engage in league play. Sport has been identified by several international organizations as an exceptional tool for development and empowerment of young people, teaching interpersonal skills such as teamwork and communication, instilling confidence and creating a playfully competitive atmosphere between otherwise opposing groups. The current lack of support for young women in sport makes it impossible for the existing teams to reap the benefits that sport has to offer.
Educating young women improves their chances for a better future and is also, as identified by UNFPA’s National Strategy for the Reduction of Teenage Pregnancy in Sierra Leone, linked to important indicators, including increased earning power: “Every year of schooling increases a girlʼs individual earning power by 10 to 20%, while the return on secondary education is even higher, in the 15 to 25%” (2012).
Project participants are supported with academic guidance and support on a weekly basis to help them complete their secondary school education and give them opportunity to learn and practice the concepts they are taught in class.
From November 2013 to July 2014, Advocate Plus recruited local tutors to support 120 young women with extra learning sessions. 14 tutors were provided with teaching materials to engage 140 students on a weekly basis. Furthermore, our 140 participants received scholarships to support their families with the cost of their annual school fees.
In addition to the planned tutorial sessions, Advocate Plus, in partnership with the national youth commission, offered extra computer training sessions to help students with hands-on computer practice, which is unavailable in most schools, but often a requirement of employment. Over 30 young women enrolled in basic computer classes over a two month period.
Despite these many challenges, some motivated Sierra Leoneans have a strong grasp of the underlying causes of these problems and are determined to improve their futures, as well as those around them. Advocate Plus matches young women with female role models in their communities, that are trained to educate and empower youth to make healthy decisions and become leaders in their communities.
In 2013-14, 4 adult female role models and 10 young leaders met for 12 intensive and engaging sessions over four months. At the end of this term, the young leaders emerged ready to train others and form a network of young, empowered female leaders in their communities.
Increasing young girls confidence also impacts their ability to demand their rights, especially regarding sexual activities. Sport is a well known tool in development of confidence and leadership in young people.
With benefits including, but not limited to, life skills, improved health, pride and confidence, sport help to keep girls healthy and build their body and overall confidence, it helps reinforce the skills that they are taught during the leadership component. The love for the game of football and the pride that so many of our young participants took while playing made it the best choice to help solidify the concept of esteem within each of these young women.
140 young women across seven teams participated in the first Young women’s football league in Bo City during our Pilot Phase in 2013-2014. To adequately prepare our representatives and coaching staff for the football season, Advocate Plus offered a series of workshops for staff and coaches to ensure the players were provided a safe and supportive environment in which to play, learn and grow. Fourteen coaches, three referees and seven project volunteers were trained to deliver emergency first aid.
A fair play workshop and forum was conducted with 14 coaches, 3 referees and 7 team representatives in attendance and a Code of Conduct was created, agreed upon and signed by all parties. This code of conduct help ensure that expectations of coaches, players and program staff were clarified and followed.
Our ability to involve 140 young women in sport did not come without its challenges, nor without consulting the communities in which we worked. In partnership with the Ministry of Education, National Youth commission, Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs and other local partners, over 20 parents meetings were held across 6 communities to engage the older generation in our discussions of young women as leaders, in sport and in school.
Our outreach did not stop there, as we felt it necessary to engage the broader community on these topics through monthly radio broadcasts and discussions. After speaking with parents, many were excited for their daughters to be involved in this program, especially because it supports their academic development and were accepting of their daughters playing football.