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Innovative Solutions: Sport, Play and Recreation for a Brighter Future

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©UNICEF Namibia/Vries
Girls playing football organized by NFA Galz and Goals

Around the world, cross-cutting sport programs are being used as a vehicle to improve learning, increase school attendance, foster girls’ participation in their communities and promote social responsibility. 

Lovisa Mulunga, 15, has a very exciting day-to-day life, something she never imaged as a little girl. Apart from studying at the Academia Secondary in Katutura, Namibia, she is the captain for the U/16 Namibian Football National Team for the Galz & Goals, a sports program supported by the Namibia Football Association and UNICEF

Launched in 2009, the program uses sport as a platform to promote individual health, social responsibility and therefore, empowering girls and young women to achieve their goals. Under the motto “Young Girls Changing Lives”, the program is reaching thousands of young girls in primary and secondary schools across the country.

Lovisa never thought she would get into it but slowly the joy of the game took over and now she can see the results. “Football wasn’t really in me, I didn’t think of ever playing until I started playing with a neighbour on my street,” says Lovisa adding that once shy, football has helped her be more social and confident in making friends all around the world where she goes to play in different international competitions.

The program integrates healthy lifestyle components into the sport context, helping players to develop the skills to make consistent and long-term choices. Issues such as HIV/AIDS, drug, alcohol abuse and gender discrimination are addressed as part of every training session and match.

Living in Namibia, one of the countries with the highest HIV/AIDS adult prevalence rate in the world, Lovisa is familiar with its danger. “I know of people who are infected with the virus, people in my community. Abstinence is a problem, people just don’t abstain in our society. I personally think that in the future the HIV rate will decrease because young people like me are getting into such programmes like the Galz & Goals, it’s a good thing,” she says.

Slowly but surely, the power of sport is creating lasting individual and social change, breaking social barriers and creating a “can do” perspective in the communities that are embracing it.
In Nepal, Sahana Prabin, a student in grade nine of Shri Janta Secondary School in Parsa District finds hope in sports. The scene of girls playing sports would have been unthinkable even a few months ago in this conservative district where girls are not supposed to play sports, and only 15 per cent of the girls aged 13 to 16 are enrolled in the appropriate grade at school. Sahana was the first to join UNICEF supported sports’ clubs for girls and the beginning wasn’t easy.

“When we first started to play in sports in school, the boys would criticize us and tease us but now they are more supportive,” says Sahana. Now, Sahana and the other girls in the sports club play football, volleyball, and badminton every day for 30 to 45 minutes during the break time in the morning. A few teachers from the school coach the girls during the practice and matches.

Participating in sports and other extra-curricular activities has helped Sahana to become an excellent student. She ranks first in her grade and her dream is to go to college.

“After I graduate from secondary school, I want to continue my studies in Birgunj (the largest city in the Parsa District) where one of my brothers is working, or in Delhi where another brother is studying. Later, I want to be a math teacher,” she says. Sahana’s family is very proud that she is doing well in school, especially since she is the only daughter to study in a secondary school. She is confident that in two years, when she graduates from high school, her brothers will support her studying in a bigger city.


 

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