By Naomi Yakawich
Known for bringing families, communities, nations, and even the world together, sports have proved to be a valuable tool in helping diverse people bridge their differences under common values and goals. Utilizing the power of sports, Global Peace Women Leadership Academy participant Zainab Nankya organized and implemented a twelve-week program at St. Theresa Secondary School in Uganda to combat gender-based violence and discrimination against girls in the local school and beyond.
Held from June through August 2019, Zainab's program included thirty students both male and female between the ages 12 to 16 years old. Welcoming 15 boys and 15 girls, the facilitated sport events aimed to improve social interaction between both demographics, transform attitudes towards support against gender-based harassment and violence in Ugandan schools, and uplift the innate value of femininity in communities, especially schools, across Uganda.
Zainab organized fun weekly games like volleyball, soccer, and netball in addition to interactive sessions on gender-based concepts, including stereotypes, conflicts between genders, and the vital role both men and women play in peacebuilding. Group discussions and presentations bolstered self-esteem, public speaking skills, self-confidence, and fostered cooperation.
Conducting a survey before and after the full program, Zainab discovered that the number of students who felt comfortable working with others increased by 94% and the number of students who “strongly understand gender-based violence” increased by 84%. Her program not only developed knowledge and respect among students, but the effects rippled out into the greater school community. “My friends who were in the program got self-confident! They can even say prayers during assembly confidently, yet they use to feel shy before,” said one senior Isabella Munazero. Other students observed that the girls participating in the program learned how to share and work better with boys during school activities.
Students in the program were excited to share their experience with friends, demonstrating the domino effect projects like this one can have in transforming attitudes in a whole community from simple but consistent activities. "I got some knowledge about gender-based violence from my friend Mitina who was in the program and she used to share some of the other things learned in the program," said Mellisa Acen.
Zainab has plans to continue the program in different communities, increasing the number of participants from 30 to 50. She hopes to expand the message to the larger community, reaching out to outstanding participants to get involved in advocacy.
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