Ensi Yona for Her: Celebrating the Women’s World Cup at SWB Uganda
Every four years, the FIFA Women’s World Cup captures the attention of the entire footballing world, bringing women’s sports into the limelight for fans and athletes everywhere. As the 2023 edition of the tournament continues to shatter viewership and attendance records, we are reminded of the incredible power of soccer to inspire, to build community, and to drive positive change.
In the pursuit of gender equity in sports, it is vital for girls to have role models and mentors to look up to. When a young person sees players and coaches that look like and talk like them, they begin to believe that they too have what it takes to get in the game. This is what we mean by “if she can see it, she can be it.”
This is especially true in a global tournament like the Women’s World Cup, where professional athletes from around the world compete. Young fans and aspiring athletes are finally able to cheer for teams, players, and role models who happen to wave their same flag, sing their same anthem, and speak their same language.
But what about those who don’t have a country to cheer for in the Women’s World Cup? Even though the 2023 tournament was expanded to 32 teams, there are still millions around the world who won’t have the opportunity to cheer for a team which represents their home nation.
At SWB Uganda – where many youth participants arrived in Kampala in search of safety and stability after fleeing the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, South Sudan, Burundi, and more – this is especially true. This is where Ensi Yona for Her, a new program at our SWB Uganda hub, comes in.
Ensi Yona for Her (ensi yona, meaning “the whole world” in the Luganda language) is an interactive and educational program designed to inspire SWB participants to look at the Women’s World Cup from a brand new perspective. The program encouraged participants to celebrate fair play just as much as spectacular goals and tournament brackets. This allowed youth participants, regardless of cultural and ethnic background, to get excited about the World Cup in a brand new way. It provided opportunities for youth to seek out positive role models that inspire them to become the best version of themselves, both on the pitch and off.
Here is how it worked:
Learning and Understanding
Youth participants from SWB Uganda gathered together for a program brief in advance of watching their first World Cup match. In this brief, they got the chance to learn all there is to know about the Women’s World Cup. They learned about the tournament’s history, its challenges, and why it has become such an important tool in the pursuit of gender equity in sports. Participants were quizzed about their newfound Women’s World Cup knowledge and those who volunteered an answer were rewarded with a small prize.
Watching and Enjoying
Every participating SWB team watched either one or two matches together as a group (either live or prerecorded, depending on time zones). Taking place after the team had completed their afternoon classes at the Uganda Youth Center, these viewing sessions were a special treat for a hard day’s work of study and language learning.
Observing and Reflecting
After the final whistle, participants partook in a 30 minute feedback session. Not only was this a chance to celebrate their favorite moments from the game, but more importantly, it was an opportunity for participants to reflect on the match on a deeper level. They shared their personal insights and emotions while watching, they identified instances of fair play, positive behavior, interesting tactics, and moments of joy (because you play best when you’re smiling!) At the end of this session, each participant was asked to focus on something that stood out for them from the match and to think about how they can apply it on the pitch.
Playing and Growing
After every team had the opportunity to watch and reflect on at least one Women’s World Cup match, then it was time to lace up some boots and get in the game! Ensi Yona for Her culminated with a mixed-gender, eight versus eight tournament. Every team was set up to have a balanced number of girls and boys as well as a balanced number of experienced and beginner players. As a team, they were tasked to come up with a name inspired by one of the 32 teams that have participated in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. From there, each team appointed a female captain whose role was to lead, coordinate, manage substitutes, and more.
The tournament kicked off with an opening circle where participants themselves got the chance to decide upon the rules (and were encouraged to reward teams for fair play as learned from watching the Women’s World Cup). SWB coaches were there to facilitate and identify those participants who stood out as leaders, who were the most engaged, played most fairly, communicated well, and more.
Ensi Yona for Her, was designed to ensure that all youth participants, no matter their background, can find something on the pitch to be inspired by. While the fact remains that most SWB Uganda participants may not have had a home country to cheer for during the Women’s World Cup, Ensi Yona provided opportunities to find and identify role models of great character, those who they can look up to on and off the pitch.
>> View the latest SWB Uganda Hub Report, looking back at mission moments and impact stats from 2022