• I Have A Voice, Listen To Me!

    CAC SDL coach Markus Bensch blogs from Kathmandu, Nepal with Go Sports Nepal.

    December 15th 2015. I arrived in Kathmandu on Saturday, November 29th for my last on-field program this year with our partner Go Sports Nepal and its founder Sunil Shrestha. As we started on Monday I was very happy to see almost equally as many women as men who were ready to play. We started off with ‘Circle of Friends’, a warm-up game where players warm-up their bodies, minds and voices. This game is a lot of fun and creates high energy as some players go through the center of the circle doing an exercise (i.e. high knees) and then find a person on the outside to go to. For the exchange both players do a move (i.e. high five) and use their voice by saying something such as their name or favorite football player. As usual on the first day the voices were very low and people didn’t speak up. This was a clear teachable moment and I talked with the participants about the importance of our voice for building confidence, to communicate, express ourselves and many more. It is always amazing how the volume increases as the week progresses. This week was no different. By Thursday the participants led the Circle by themselves and there was a lot of laugher, screaming and shouting.

    But the change of voice does not only happen during Circle of Friends. People also speak up more and more during the social impact talks that are related to each of our games and I see this change particularly with female participants. In many communities I work, girls and women are not supposed to raise their voice in front of their male counterparts and they are not encouraged to speak up publicly. We addressed this issue through our games. One of them is a version of Circle of Friends where the players say things that are empowering girls and women, i.e. “I have a voice, listen to me!” or “I am woman/man, I want to play!” As a coach I also create a safe space and a platform where female participants can speak up and to be listened to.

    On Tuesday I introduced our female role model Marta who is a Brazilian footballer and five times Ballon d’Or Award winner. Many male players got confused and assumed that I was talking about Juan Mata, Manchester United’s midfielder and Spanish national team player. Finally one of the women raised her voice and said: “No, she is a female player and comes from Brazil.” During the game reviews I realized how powerful Marta was for the female participants. A group of women prepared the game Marta Skills for Life and in the Social Impact section they wrote down all the details about Marta’s story and how women can do everything that men can do. It’s amazing to see how smart and intelligent these young women are and how much they absorb everything that gives them the vision of a different life with more freedom and more choices. At the same time it makes me wonder how hard it must be for them to always hold back their thoughts and creativity, because society doesn’t believe that they have any valuable contribution to important matters.

    On Friday we ran our coach-back session and we included the children from SJ Primary School, who allowed us to use their sport court for the whole week. We started again with ‘Circle of Friends’ and I was surprised that the children were not shy at all, but rather had strong voices and there was a lot of laughter and excitement. I was happy to see these young girls and boys play together so blithely. My last On-Field week this year was truly inspiring and these amazing participants will remain in my memory. In future every time I witness how girls are held down and have to keep quiet I will remember these girls and women in Kathmandu who realized that they “can also change the world when they get the opportunity”.

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