BUKWO, AMANANG – The Reproductive Education and Community Health [REACH} programme has launched an innovative project in Bukwo district to use football to tackle issues of Female Genital Mutilation [FGM] and Gender-Based Violence [GBV] against women and girls.
Bukwo is part of Sebei sub-region is faced with a high rate of FGM/C and GBV, early forced marriages and girls dropping out of schools as major challenges effecting the girls and.
In this part of the country, most girls are cut, girls and women have no voice or choice; they just accept anything as long as it has come from a man, an elder, clan leader and mother-in-law.
The women/girls cannot be seen or heard and the FGM culture is so deeply rooted that even talking about the issues that affect women and girls is taboo.
The one-year programme addressing GBV and FGM through Football programme is being funded by the AFDB through UNRA and uses football to develop a brighter future for young girls/women in Sebei sub-region.
Ms Beatrice Chelangat, the Director-General of the REACH programme says that participation in football is a powerful tool for addressing gender inequality and, by engaging boys and girls together through football and that this programme aims to target harmful social attitudes and empower young people to speak out within their communities.
“We have started a new programme, football for girls where we integrate GBV and FGM into regular football sessions for girls and boys between the ages of 14 and above to enable local coaches to work with us and women/girls to explore attitudes towards gender and develop skills around teamwork, fair play, self-confidence and respect,” said Ms Chelangat 7 January at Amanag secondary school play grounds.
Speaking at the launch of Women’s football in Amanang secondary school in Bukwo, Ms Chelangat said alongside the regular football and education sessions, FGM and GBV within the wider community through regular physical attendance, radio broadcasts, community awareness-raising events centered on other games, and support from high profile champions speaking out to fight GBV/FGM and social ills.
Dr. Yeko Arapkisa, the reproductive Health specialist noted that the potential to challenge gender stereotypes by having girls playing football visibly in the community is also important to send the message of emancipation home.
The REACH programme football tournament initiative, works with young people in the entire Sebei sub-region [Kapchorwa, Kween and Bukwo districts] to address some of the behaviours and attitudes that give rise to high levels of violence against women and girls.
“By engaging and coaching both boys and girls in football, it is now showing people that girls can do what boys can do, especially in football, in a man’s game. Also, having male coaches talking about these issues will influence other men. Victims and survivors will learn their rights and avenues for redress.” Dr Arapkisa said.
Ms Marisa Cheptegei, the deputy speaker at Bukwo district local government said the district council has also adopted the use of women/girls football in getting audiences to talk about FGM/GBV.
She revealed that besides the district council, a number of stakeholders agree that girls football could play a critical role in confronting violence against women in Sebei sub-region and that The REACH programme and the district council aims to work directly with 13 community football coaches, 6,000 young people, 96 community stakeholders, and more than 5000 members of the wider community.
According to Mr Francis Mangusho, the M and E specialist, the programme also includes a monitoring and evaluation component which uses participatory methods like drama and the creation of collaborative albums to capture the attitudes of the participating girls and women.
Creating awareness in order to prevent violence against women is a key priority area of funding for the AfDB and UNRA along the Kapchorwa Suam road to GBV and FGM, as key interventions at an early age for sustainable change.