When it comes to accessing and participating in sport, girls world-wide report facing a number of barriers. Of these barriers, the most significant are parental permission, financial and material resources, and access to safe spaces. In 2015, Soccer Without Borders—Kampala, launched our Girls Empowerment Program to address these barriers for our growing number of female participants. Since then, the Girls Empowerment Program has evolved to include an entire day where our community center is open to only our female participants and staff members. On these days, you can find our coaches and players taking part in a team building activity, chatting over a cup of tea, learning a new skill, or reflecting on their leadership skills. In this safe, girls-only space our players are able to take part in special programming, build community and make meaningful connections with peers, as well as work with female role models. After joining the SWB Kampala staff in August, Kimberly Gerken, SWB’s newest Women’s Sports Corps Fellow, jumped in and joined our group of coach-mentors that plan and facilitate the Girls Empowerment Program each Wednesday. Below, Kimberly recaps a day spent with the girls of SWB Kampala….
Here at SWB Uganda - exciting things are happening on and off the pitch, especially for our extraordinary girls who regularly meet in the SWB community center for our Girls Empowerment Program (GEP). In the coming months, we will be using our shared time together to dive into topics from health and hygiene, to respect, to leadership and communication. This week during the Girl’s Empowerment Program, our lessons and discussions zoomed in on the theme of decision making. During our guided discussions, many of our players used football examples when talking about the small and big decisions that they make on a daily basis. One of those larger decisions that several of the girls brought up was that, as female athletes, they often have to choose whether or not to play football even when their parents may disapprove and proclaim that “playing football will make them masculine”. The girls’ passionate discussion over these big decisions and their barriers illuminated their enthusiasm for the game. For some of our newer participants, this love for the game made an impression; 3 new girls were encouraged to strap on some boots and play soccer with us for the first time!
After our morning reflections, we then jumped into some serious crafting! While a fun activity, the girls also learned how to make affordable craft products that they can sell for profit. All the materials we used are are cheap or things that can easily found around the house and be repurposed to create something new of value. Once made and sold at local craft markets, our young women can afford to purchase sanitation pads. This week, our younger girls got busy learning how to sew wallets and our young women learned how to make drawstring bags! Once complete, the drawstring bags will be used to store our equipment so that when we arrive to SWB for training, our cleats and gear will be organized and ready to go! To some it might seem like our ability to get ready for soccer quickly is a small accomplishment, but the faster we get ready to go to the field, the more time the we have to play. And our girls LOVE to play.
Later in the week, several of our girls teams, including the both the U16 Superstars and the U14 Dolphins played friendly matches against local teams. They played their hearts out. As coaches, we were especially excited to see many of our players demonstrate the skills we had been working on during our first 2 weeks of programming this term! The progress these girls have made in such a short time is amazing - we cannot wait to see the strides we'll make, on the pitch and through our off field programming, over the course of this term!