• Changing Culture in Kolkata

    May 15, 2015.  Chief Exec Brian tells of the dramatic transformation occurring in Kolkata, India.

    They want to play. That much is clear. There were 49 different women who came out to our trainings this past week and all wanted to play. Even the 22 of whom had never kicked a football until this week. The culture and traditions of this community did not make it easy for girls and women to play football. It just wasn’t something that they historically participated in – and change is not easy. Threats and acts of physical violence on women for playing sport are extremely rare, but still occur from time to time as we heard second-hand accounts during our time here.

    But the culture is changing and the overwhelming majority of this community has chosen to support this change, with the assistance of the partnership between Chevrolet FC, the Belalious School, Slum Soccer, and Coaches Across Continents. A new field-turf facility was built on the grounds of the Belalious School in an impoverished area of Kolkata called Tikiapara. The girls (and boys) now have a safe space, both physically and emotionally to participate in sport. And more importantly the community has embraced this facility as their own.

    Each afternoon two hours has been designated exclusively for the girls and women of this community to come and play and learn. They slip off their shoes and headscarves and join in the CAC training to learn from the game of football. Only a few are comfortable donning soccer jerseys or shorts, and the rest play in their colorful saris. A handful are already coaches, while others are hoping to become community leaders who can begin using the field as a place to teach young girls social messages through soccer, an opportunity many of them were never afforded.

    What does it mean to change cultures and traditions, and why is this important? Despite the lip service globally to equal human rights, many girls and women are not permitted to play sports. Here in India, less than 2% of soccer players are female, and that number may be generous. But beliefs can change and should change if we truly want to embrace equal rights. Sport, especially sport for social impact, is something that promotes healthy lifestyles for women, decreases infant mortality, fosters female empowerment and gender equity, and encourages further education which in turn increases average annual income. And most importantly, sport is fun. And the women want to play. That much is clear.

    The most satisfying aspect of this week, as a western man who is coming to this community as an outsider with my own ingrained beliefs, was watching a group of older men observe training each day. They sat peacefully and supportively guarded the entryway, shooing away small boys or leering adolescents so that the women could train in peace. They were the guardians of this new safe space. In their own gruff way, these men are ensuring that it is ok for cultures to change and to allow their daughters, sisters, and wives to enjoy the freedom of sport and the power of social education through football.  And the girls and women want to play. That much is clear.

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    One thing is clear:

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    They want to play.

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    CAC, Chevrolet FC, and Slum Soccer have helped make it happen.

     

  • CAC Launch ASK for Choice Curriculum

    March 9th 2015. Soccer is the most loved sport on earth, played by over 265 million people worldwide. In 2006, only 10% of those 265 million people were female, the dominating 90% were male. In 2014, female participation was up to 14%.

    We are motivated to help this number grow.

    In light of International Women’s Day yesterday, we are launching our new female empowerment curriculum called, “ASK for Choice”. Our curriculum as a whole addresses why there is a need for gender equality worldwide. The games we have created challenge participants to start thinking about why things are the way they are in their communities… Like, where do women wish to have more choices in their life? Do women have a voice in their community? Can women be leaders in their community? We want people to begin to question what traditions have told them about the role of women in their society.

    Where do certain ideas come from? What has kept these ideas around? And can these ideas change?

    Choice is at the core of our work. Having the freedom to make our own choices in this world is a privilege that not everyone is granted. All across the globe, women are discriminated against. For years brave women have fought for equal rights and for years we will continue to fight for a world where all human beings are treated the same. Through our ASK for Choice curriculum, we have created games to give women the tools to become active participants in their own lives, and men the tools to include women in their society as equals; recognizing that society as a whole functions better when men and women have the same opportunities.

    Each segment of the ASK for Choice curriculum, Attitudes, Skills, Knowledge and Choice, contain 5 games. Tied to each game is a fact for each of the 5 countries we chose to highlight; Brazil, USA, Rwanda, Indonesia, and India. Each game has either a positive or negative fact tied to it about women. For example, “approximately 70% of the worlds poor are women and girls” or “women reinvest 90% of their income into their families while men invest only 30 to 40%.” Often times these facts spark discussion among the participants, and it gives them the opportunity to reflect on how women are treated in their community. The facts are crucial in understanding where we are in the world in terms of gender equality as well as recognize that although we have a ways to go, we have been and can continue to move closer to gender equality. ASK for Choice will be implemented in the 26 countries we work this year and aims to impact the 3,500+ participants we work with, along with the approximately 300,000 boys and girls the participants teach and play soccer with in all of our outreach areas.

    Alongside our ASK for Choice curriculum, we have started our own HeForShe campaign. Emma Watson’s goal with the HeForShe initiative is for men to advocate, break the silence and take action for the achievement of gender equality. Since the inception of CAC in 2008, it has been our mission to encourage men across the globe to empower women to rise up for the betterment of society as a whole, and we are inspired to see someone with a major influence in today’s society bring it to the forefront of world issues. We are happy to be a part of this movement and share our HeForShe efforts with the world through our new ASK for Choice curriculum. Happy International Women’s Day!

    To the fathers, sons, and brothers out there, show your support today and everyday, by standing strong for the amazing women of this world; for you are half the sky.

    To the mothers, daughters and sisters out there, everybody deserves to have a voice and a choice in this world; lets use ours to stand up and ASK for it; for we are the other half of the sky.

    We hope you had a great International Women’s Day! Go give a woman in your life a hug!

    Watch our latest female empowerment segment from our 2014 documentary below! To support this curriculum and be in with the chance of winning a signed 1999 US Womens’s World Cup jersey go to this page.

  • Part 2 of the Brand New CAC Documentary

    March 3rd 2015. CAC are pleased to present part 2 of our new 2015 documentary. We have 5 films which are being released in 5 parts before the full feature video is released. The documentary was filmed in Cambodia in August 2014 with our inspirational partners there, IndoChina Starfish Foundation, by CAC’s resident videographer Kevin O’Donovan. Kevin does an incredible job of bringing CAC’s work to life every year and this film is no different.

    In the second installment below, we focus on our Soccer For Female Empowerment module which helps our participants to challenge harmful cultures and traditions related to gender equality. Some of the cultures in which we work discourage girls from going to school while others have the highest rates of female genital mutilation and gender-based violence in the world. The inspiring women in this video have challenged the belief that girls can’t play sport and have become role models for IndoChina Starfish Foundation in Phnom Penh. This module is particularly significant with International Women’s Day on Sunday and CAC’s new ASK for Choice curriculum.

    Watch the new video below today and stay tuned for the next installment very soon!

     

    And in case you missed it, here was part 1 which focused on our Self-Directed Learning model:

  • Football for Female Empowerment

    Why is it important for girls to play sports? This is a question we ask all of our participants, all over the world. Our female empowerment initiative here at CAC is all-inclusive… meaning we hold ourselves to higher standards than we hold the rest of the world. Our team is made up of at least 60% female coaches, and we do not accept partner programs that do not include women in their activities. It is important to understand, however, that gender equity is the ultimate goal. Yet, so often we hear the phrase, “she doesn’t play like a girl.” What does this mean? How do we move away from this type of mentality that so generalizes and devalues female potential?

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    The need for female empowerment on a global scale is urgent. We recognize that need and in response, allow it to permeate throughout our organization on and off the field. On-field, aside from leading programs with female senior staff and the most female-empowering men you’ve ever met, we have injected it into our curriculum. Every player has a Gender Equity game. An example of one of these games is Messi for Gender Equity. This game addresses violence with particular attention to violence against women and girls.

    In order to bring these issues to the forefront we play a game with variations that point to specific topics. In the first round there are the taggers that represent different forms of violence – physical, emotional, verbal, sexual – that chase the others around a box that represents their community. If tagged, the player has to freeze with one hand covering their mouth, signifying the inability to speak. We will stop and have a brief discussion about that round and how difficult it was for the players being chased. We will ask who in their community can help put an end to violence against females and those answers will elicit a ball. The footballs can be passed among the players being chased, representing members of the community that can help prevent violence and also assist those that have been victims of violence. The players in possession of a ball are safe, and those that are frozen can be freed if a ball passes through their legs. The final round of this game allows the frozen players to call for help, demonstrating that an act of violence did not take away their voice.

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    Messi for Gender Equity is a terrific game of tag that incorporates the ball and captures the essence of violence – the affects, how to stop it, how to help each other, how to help ourselves. The game embodies the message, and the details come through in the discussions, which, as always, vary as the culture varies. A group of sixty middle-aged men in the toughest neighborhood of the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Cité Soleil, Haiti, is going to have a different discussion from a group of twenty teenage girls in downtown Mumbai, India.

    With this game, and many others, an obvious target is the voice. A massive part in all that we do, the voice is the most powerful tool that we can use to make our own decisions in life, to make our own choices. Every person, young or old, female or male, is entitled to a voice and a choice, and we work to empower them to claim those rights.

    Our Monitoring & Evaluation shows us that participants who know how to use football to give young girls a voice and to have confidence to make personal choices jumps from 17% before to 96% after a CAC training.

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