• Let us play: Congo Mothers Call for Parity

    July 28th 2016. Our third year On-Field with Malaika through the eyes, ears, and words of SDL Coach and ASK for Choice Strategist, Nora Dooley.

    “Tomorrow morning we will ask a group of about sixty Congolese men what they are going to do for the women and girls in their communities. What would you like me to tell them on behalf of you, the mothers of Kalebuka?”

    It was Thursday afternoon and I was sitting in a circle with my teammates and twenty women, all mothers of children who play at Malaika’s FIFA Football for Hope Center near Lubumbashi, DRC. We had just finished the fourth day On-Field with a fantastic bunch of participants. The group was comprised mostly of returning coaches from the two previous years of CAC trainings, the vast majority being older men with clear experience in both playing and coaching football.

    Now, to massively understate, I’ve led a few CAC programs where I am in the minority as a woman. I find confidence here – almost as if the strength of all the incredible females I’ve ever met or known is fueling me in this seemingly boundless male-dominated territory. But looking around the circle at these mothers… I’ve never felt so small. I let go of all personal doubts as to what I was doing there and dove in. I had to hear them – and not just because I was selfishly eager to know even a small part of their stories, but because all week long conversations about gender equity and women’s rights were sprouting up from men. It was past time for the woman’s voice to Mingle Mingle.

    We laughed, we listened, we danced. And I carefully noted.

    The intense week with the coaches charged my emotions in this session. In four days we had explored ideas about different cultural possibilities, different organized religious beliefs (or lack thereof), and new and different ways to venture into these types of vital discussions on the football pitch. The participants were given the opportunity to identify a specific social issue and adapt or invent a game that would create space to discuss solutions. We danced through the struggles and vulnerabilities of coaching for social impact that – in my opinion – inevitably produce more beautiful music. One of the key conversations was unpacking the coaching toolbox that the participants could make use of if they so chose. A particular tool that came up repeatedly on and off the field was the use of a coach’s ears. And how as leaders we have the option to lecture or listen. The movement from the former to the latter over the course of the coaches’ practical sessions was profound. Our model, demonstrated not forced: their choice.

    They chose and chose and chose.  And we listened. After two years of Child Protection Policy trainings (bearing in mind the bulk of returning participants) and the outspoken passion these men demonstrated as they brought up gender inequalities as problems, it was time to shake things up for some localized policy design.

    The final day began with small group discussions:

    Imagine a future where women and men are treated equally: what does that look like for you?

    What is preventing this future from being reality?

    What must we do to achieve this future? What would you include in a policy/action plan for gender equity – for the rights of women and girls in your communities?

    They vehemently engaged, discussed, shared, listed, debated, agreed to disagree on some things, unanimously agreed on others. They had big ideas and some steps in mind to realize them. But there was still an essential missing piece. I told them about our meeting the previous afternoon with the mothers. I told them we had something to add on behalf of those women. I asked the men if they wanted to listen.

    They chose, once again, to use those brilliant ears and I was given a most humbling and thrilling honor of channeling the voices of these Kalebuka mothers, echoing thousands (millions?), as I read aloud their call for parity.

    “We women have all the same rights as you.”

    “Come with us, men and women together, into the community to share knowledge about girls’ and women’s rights.”

    “Let us play! You need to create space and opportunities for us and our daughters to play. If you get two days on the field… we get two days!”

    “Encourage us, and include us!”

    “We are strong, too.”

    And if I may be so bold to add… We are women, and we ASK for Choice!!!

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  • 3 Weeks, 3 Goals – Coaches Across Continents Scores a Hat-Trick in Cambodia

    CAC Board Member, Judith Gates, writes about her three weeks on-field with CAC in Cambodia, highlighting the third with Globalteer in Siem Reap.

    August 30th, 2014. As a board member I have been involved with the thinking and planning behind CAC from day 1 and now take part on-field in one program each year. It is this on-field involvement that colors my perceptions, changing them from monochrome to startling technicolor. This year has been no different.

    Cambodia offers the Western visitor a taste of the exotic. The temples of Angkor Wat remind one of the grandeurs of the past. As a symbol of purity, lotus flowers bloom everywhere, whilst Cambodian smiles and graciousness dominate every exchange. But what also flourishes amid the exotic is grinding poverty, learned helplessness and scarcity of hope.

    In the last three weeks in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, CAC has worked with two extraordinary not for profit organisations, Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF) and Globalteer, and through them been linked with local partners, including Stepping Stones and ABC’s and Rice. Overall I am humbled by their efforts to help children and young people secure an education and combat poverty. It is a privilege for CAC to bring our program of ‘sport for social impact’ to support their sterling work.

    And what positive responses we have had! Maybe the final session with Globalteer best captures the contribution CAC has made. Despite the relentless mid-day sun, despite the tired bodies drenched in sweat, no one wanted to leave the pitch. Certificates were distributed, words of appreciation and thanks were exchanged, innumerable photos were taken, and still the conversations continued, punctuated by laughter, permeated by hope.

    Founder Nick Gates often asks his coaches to name their hat-trick of the day, their three outstanding memories. Let me take this concept and apply it to my time on-field in Cambodia.

    My most powerful memory is of two words, simple in construct, profound in meaning; the words ” I promise!” For two years CAC has been linked with UNICEF in a project designed to further child rights and child protection in and through sport. CAC was determined to avoid a “filing cabinet approach”. We wanted to create a model which avoided systemised signing of forms, subsequently filed, quickly forgotten. Instead CAC sets out to engage the hearts and minds of local coaches so that their commitment to child protection is both heartfelt and sincere. Following a discussion on forms of abuse, coaches are asked to consider what they must ALWAYS do and NEVER do to protect the rights of children in their care. The discussions were personal and, at times, painful, but the outcomes were powerful. As each session closed, each and every coach shook hands and signed the flipchart to formalise their promise to protect. Their commitment was obvious. They want to improve their community and their country. Throughout the days following this powerful session coaches frequently came up to me to say only two words. ” I promise!” I heard their words, I saw their faces, I respect their determination to be role models for the future.

    My second memory is of empowerment. On the first morning of each program CAC was confronted by compliant individuals, culturally conditioned to acquiescence, victims of learned helplessness. By day four, as a result of carefully structured curriculum games, these ‘coaches in the making’ had found their ‘voice’, practised collaborative problem solving skills and were able to take a leadership role in “coach-backs”, namely coaching their peers in the games they had learned. From ‘silence’ to ‘voice’, from ‘compliance’ to ‘problem solving’, personal development was evident.

    My third memory is of the power of “self-directed learning”. CAC works with local partners to create “Community Impact Coaches”. These partner coaches complete our program within their community and then take their emerging ‘sport for social impact’ skills and widen their coaching experience by working with CAC coaches in another community. Five Community Impact Coaches were chosen from ISF in Phnom Penh to travel to Siem Reap to work with CAC and Globalteer. There they identified local problems and created and coached football games for social impact. Within the space of a very short time these Community Impact Coaches had grasped the concept of football for social impact, along with the capacity to create and coach games to address local problems. Now that is progress!

    Three weeks in Cambodia, three goals achieved. Truly a hat-trick of successes for Coaches Across Continents. When we work with our partner coaches to create self-directed learners, local coaches capable of making thoughtful choices, when they in turn work in their communities to create empowered youth, ‘learned helplessness’ is diminished and the cycle of poverty is interrupted. When disempowered people find hope, their language becomes a language of possibility. And who knows where a sense of possibility may lead.

     

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