• Mariah Lee Reflects on Trip to the DRC

    Step Up Athlete and professional soccer player, Mariah Lee, talks about her first on-field experience with CAC, advancing gender equality in the DRC. 

    I have just returned home after spending two weeks in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). While I have been a part of the Choice For Women team for more than a year now, this was my first on-field experience with CAC. For the majority of my time in the DRC, I led trainings on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Prevention at the Malaika Community Center in Kalebuka as part of a global initiative with EngenderHealth to address UN SDG 5: Gender Equality. 

    In other words, I used Purposeful Play (i.e., sport/games/play) to teach community leaders about SRHR and GBV Prevention. They will go on to lead sessions in their communities, impacting hundreds of youth across the DRC. Elvis, head of the Malaika Community Center and long-time CAC accredited coach spearheaded the sessions, and together we graduated more than 40 leaders over the course of one week. 

    Reading and hearing about what CAC does is one thing, but experiencing it firsthand is entirely different. There is something really powerful about experiential learning and using play to spark dialogue and introduce concepts. This could look like a game of tag where taggers represent a sexually transmitted disease and the safe area represents a condom. This could also be a game of soccer or handball where scoring a goal symbolizes pregnancy and goalkeepers symbolize different types of contraception. Each game is designed to stimulate discussion and incorporate participants’ ideas and solutions. 

    You might think adults wouldn’t be that excited to get outside and play games all day, but the folks we worked with were incredibly enthusiastic! Our cohort had so much energy– we danced and chanted and laughed together every day. We had our share of serious moments, too. During the week we touched on topics such as reproduction, family planning, contraception, HIV/STI protection, reproductive rights, stereotyping, inclusion, opportunity, power dynamics, and safe choices. For many participants, this was their first time broaching some of these subjects. 

    Fortunately, we were able to create a safe environment where participants were able to ask questions about stereotypically taboo topics. I was able to correct misconceptions participants held about reproduction, contraception, and female athletes. Interestingly enough, the men in our cohort were more accepting of women in sport, and it was the women who were more apprehensive. Most of the women had played soccer when they were younger but eventually stopped because of pressure from their community. They were told playing soccer would make them become infertile, turn into a boy, lose their virginity, lose their breasts, etc. I gladly busted those myths!

    Outside of our SRHR and GBV Prevention trainings, I spent the majority of my time running soccer sessions with coaches and players– including girls from the Malaika School and boys from the surrounding community. In the DRC there is no public education. Parents either have to come up with the money for school fees or their children sit at home all day– or for many– at the local football pitch. I coached many boys who had little to no formal education, where football is one of the few pathways to a better life. Malaika is a tuition-free private school for girls founded by international supermodel Noella Coursaris Munsunka. Noella, who is Congolese and Cypriot was born in the DRC, but raised in the UK after her father died. Noella’s mother, like most Congolese women, had no education and could not support her. This reality fueled Noella’s desire to create opportunities for girls and women in her home country. 

    E-meeting Noella and being welcomed by the administrators at Malaika was incredibly inspiring and further cemented my passion for empowering Black girls. Being able to impact the girls and women of the Kalebuka community is something I will never forget! 

  • CAC Launches Women Led Choice For Women

    Choice For Women, a specialized women-led organization working within Coaches Across Continents, was unveiled today. Choice For Women aims to equip girls and women with the tools to become global Active Citizens, achieve UN SDG 5.1, and create a more gender-equal world. By utilizing CAC’s extensive resources, Choice For Women will amplify the voices of girls and women, and empower women-centered organizations, corporations, and initiatives across the globe. 

    While Choice For Women is new, CAC’s work in this area is not. UN SDG 5.1 (to end discrimination against women and girls) has served as a target for CAC since its inception, and has inspired many initiatives over the years. CAC’s ASK for Choice Curriculum: Attitudes Skills and Knowledge for Choice, was designed in 2014 and has since been used by over 100 of our community-based partners. Our Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) curriculum was created in 2019 as part of a nationwide initiative in Tanzania and is now used internationally. Additionally, the Step Up program, which focuses on career development for female professional athletes, is the first of its kind. Step Up provides athletes with the opportunity to gain vital work experience while developing their social voice with global impact! 

    In addition to the aforementioned initiatives, CAC serves many female educators and coaches, women-led organizations, and girl-focused groups. Choice For Women grew out of a need to consolidate all of CAC’s existing women’s-centered programming under one umbrella, and have a space solely dedicated to advancing the lives of women and girls that operates with the full thrust of CAC. 

    Thus, Choice For Women’s structure mirrors that of CAC, and is divided into four divisions: Influence, Innovate, Impact, and Instruct. Choice for Women Influence advises governments, confederations, global NGOs, policy makers, and key donors. Choice for Women Innovate creates Corporate Social Purpose and Cause Marketing legacies for corporations and foundations. Choice for Women Impact advances local organizations by delivering year-round sustainable, strategic resources. Choice for Women Instruct uses Purposeful Play and Education Outside the Classroom to develop women as leaders and educate young people through on-field activities and gender-sensitive curriculum. 

    If you would like to support Choice For Women, one opportunity is to participate in our live Auction and Raffle. Our esteemed auction item is a 1999 Women’s World Cup Ball signed by the championship-winning US Women’s National Team (including signatures from Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain, Brianna Scurry, Michelle Akers and Tracy Noonan). We are also raffling a mini-ball signed by the 2021 NWSL Champions: The Washington Spirit, led by Kelley O’Hara, Andi Sullivan, and Trinity Rodman. Bidding and raffle ticket sales close on December 13, 2021 at 11:59pm EST. 

     

    For all inquiries, please contact us at