• How Do I Play Messi for Gender Equity Again?

    CAC Self-Directed Learning coach Markus Bensch blogs from Eldoret, Kenya with the Kenya Community Sports Foundation (KESOFO)

    April 21st 2015. After working for 10 weeks Off-Field I was scheduled in Kenya to run 6 different programs in 6 weeks. It was the longest break from working On-Field since I joined Coaches Across Continents (CAC) one year ago. Would I still remember how to play the games? Do I still know how to coach or did I already become a woolly academic after spending hundreds of hours in front of my laptop screen? I would find out very soon. I left Germany just before Easter and arrived in Eldoret on Sunday April 5th. On Monday we had an introduction meeting with about 20 participants and our implementing partner Kenya Community Sports Foundation (KESOFO). When the first participants arrived at the meeting hall I could already feel the excitement building. I introduced myself and explained CAC but I couldn’t wait for Tuesday to get back on the field. My colleagues Turner and Kelly arrived on Monday night from Uganda after they just finished our programs there. I was very excited to work with Kelly again after we had so much fun in Tanzania in December running four different programs. And I looked forward to working with Turner for the first time after I met him last year in Uganda when he was still volunteering with Soccer Without Borders (SWB). And we were all very happy to welcome our Community Impact Coach (CIC) Phelix Aloo into our team. It was his first time joining CAC outside of his home community. On Tuesday morning at the breakfast table our team was finally complete and the fun part could start.

    We wanted to start our training at 9am, but it is Africa so the clocks work differently, less precise and less commanding. We finally started about one and a half hours late and after asking the baseline questions we could finally get onto the field. We started with Circle of Friends and then I coached my first game after almost 3 months: Messi Skills for Life. As I was coaching I got this warm feeling in my body that tells me that I am in the right place in that particular moment, a place where I belong: the football pitch!

    The week progressed very well and the participants enjoyed our games. Our Gender Equity games and ASK for Choice curriculum initiated very good discussions about female empowerment and abuse of women. We discussed the social issues of sexual harassment, rape, sex trafficking and female genital mutilation. When we start these conversations the men are always very vocal in explaining the situation in their community and country. I feel that some of the men try to downplay the situation about sexual abuse and indeed most of them are silent. After some time I invited the female participants, who are usually in the minority and usually a bit shy to speak up in front of men, to share their view and opinion. It is very interesting to see how the women open up when they get asked and how much value they add to the discussion. I feel that they often draw a more realistic picture of the situation due to the fact that most of them have experienced, or at least know somebody, who has been sexually abused. I have experienced several times, and Eldoret was no different, that our discussion about gender equality and female empowerment works like a turning point in the week. The women feel empowered and valued in their views through our encouragement to speak up and the interest we show towards their stories. Afterwards they will speak up without being asked and act as equal participants and revive the dynamic of the group. For me it is always so rewarding to see participants grow in their confidence and self-esteem and witness how their whole bodies become more relaxed.

    After the program on Friday afternoon we visited a participant in his community and met with the football team he coaches. We had a short session with the children and youth of the community where we played some of our CAC games and some of the participants got another opportunity to do more coach-backs. Afterwards we played a football game between the local team and a “Dream Team Eldoret” which consisted of participants and us four coaches from CAC. Dream Team Eldoret won with a tight 1-0 score and we all had a lot of fun. It was a great finish to a successful week with KESOFO. And thanks to Turner’s hint I even remembered how to play “Messi for Gender Equity”!

    I want to say a big ‘Thank you!’ to Phelix Aloo who has been a great help to our team on and off the field. Unfortunately he couldn’t join us for his 2nd week in Kitale due to a sickness of a close family member that needed his help. We wish that she gets better soon and we hope to welcome Phelix again as a Community Impact Coach when the opportunity arises.

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