• An Unleashing- International Women’s Day 2015

    Staff member, Nora Dooley, writes about our continued support for International Women’s Day.

    March 6, 2015. Can a bird fly with only one wing?

    A CAC icon and personal role model oft refers to this metaphor. The most recent reference was during her speech discussing the global war on women. Dr. Judith Gates, the mother of our founder, and thousands of women like her, like my own mother, are huge parts of the equation that has enabled me to be an empowered woman. But they are only half of this equation.

    When we talk about female empowerment, what do we mean? This word empowerment, so grand, so profound, it even sounds empowered! But too few take the time to question what this term means to their own lives. I had a conversation recently with one of our participants from Mexico – he believes it should rather be an unleashing of potential, of ability that exists but is denied the freedom to fly.

    And he is a he!

    And, in other news, our founder… also a he!

    There is much talk of this #HeforShe campaign and I think we are all excited about it. But in order to properly support this movement, we have to acknowledge all the past ‘Hes’ that supported the ‘Shes’ in their lives. My father was one. My football coaches as well.

    As an organization we are supporting this campaign with all our might, as we have been working for the same cause since CAC’s inception. Football: a male-dominated sport. Sport: a male-dominated field. The world: overwhelmed by male-dominated societies. For these reasons we have been striving to work with more women but men have also dominated our fields for the past 8 years. One might think we have never prioritized female empowerment, because, well, no females in football. But, of course, the exact opposite is the reality of CAC – encouraging men to empower women, men to empower girls, boys to empower their sisters and look up to their mothers, HeforShe – this has forever been integral to our identity.

    And guess what? It’s working.

    More women are participating in our programs each year, an expectation of our partner programs, but also an objective that they believe in and work towards. In fact, we had 25.43% female participation in 2014, an incredible number in this arena. More girls are also participating in our partners’ teams and activities. And more CAC participants believe in equal opportunities for boys and girls. More. More. More.

    Sport, football, men, and women are giving more and more girls voices, so their choices can be heard. They are unleashing the capacity that has lain dormant for too long.

    Our amazing partners with the help of our curriculum and philosophy, with the help of incredible leaders in their local communities and in the worldwide sphere, are replacing the image of a falling, one-winged bird with something else, something fierce, something truly empowered.

    Happy International Women’s Day from CAC to all the members of our family, past, present, and future. We honor the women speaking out for themselves and their fellows, we honor the men stepping up for those who cannot, and we most of all honor those who have yet the opportunity to raise their voice, and ASK for Choice*.

    *Stay tuned in the coming days to learn all about our new female empowerment curriculum: ASK for Choice.  You have also recently learnt of an incredible opportunity to win a 1999 US Women’s World Cup shirt signed by the entire squad with all proceeds going to our new female empowerment curriculum and our gender equity efforts worldwide. Do you know when the next World Cup is?

    2015-01-27 01.13.58

    This short film highlights our female empowerment module.

  • He for She with Isha Vidhya

    December 15, 2014. Senior Staff, Nora Dooley, shares her thoughts on our last program in India for 2014 with the Isha Foundation in Coimbatore, India.

    “Can men take care of babies?” – “YES!”

    “Can men cook and clean?” – “YES!”

    “Can men stay at home while women work?” – Another, resounding, “YES!”

    Thirty men and boys in perfect unison; they chant, “YES” for gender equality. And three women sigh and shake their heads.

    For my final program of 2014, I return to Coimbatore for the third year of our partnership with the Isha Foundation. This year sees some familiar faces from years past, but the majority of the participants are new to CAC. We have a nice mélange of teachers and students, adding depth and energy to every game and discussion.

    We do not have a nice mélange of gender.

    An easy choice by both parties – CAC and Isha – gender equity quickly became this year’s priority. Such a nice term, ‘gender equity’. Equity. Equality. But what does it mean? To you? To me?

    Many cheer for equality, but few take the time to find their personal motive for why we need to empower women and girls.

    So we play. And play and play. Marta Skills for Life. Mia Hamm Skills for Life. Who is Marta? Who is Mia Hamm?

    Powerful. Female. Role Models.

    Marta for Gender Equity: How can we get more girls on the pitch? If you score a goal, use your voice to empower your teammates – “You can do it!”, they shout. Rapinoe for Gender Equity: Four words for the ideal man: “Strong!” “Legend!” “Noble!” “Superior!” The four teams stand in four corners on the pitch, one for each word. When I call two words the groups standing in the corresponding boxes switch places as fast as possible – running, skipping, dancing, like animals, with a ball. Now four words for your ideal woman: “Beautiful!” “Gentle!” “Smart-look!” “Colorful!” We play again.

    Falcao for Gender Equity: One team has three goals to score on; the other team only has one. We play. “Is this game fair?” “No!” Suarez for Gender Equity: Three goals at each end that represent words that empower girls. The participants call out, “education!”, “employment!”, and “choice!”. Everybody must walk and if they score a goal and shout the empowering word, they can run. Perpetua for Gender Equity: What are some traditional roles for men in your community? – Driver, builder, farmer, fisherman, businessman, army, shoemaker, barber. And women? – Beauty parlor, housewife, baby-care, cooking, cleaning, nurse, stitching. When I call out a job – the players assigned that role run onto the field and play 2v2, 4v4, etc. We play.

    I ask:

    “Can men be beautiful?” – “YES!”

    “Can men take care of babies?” – “YES!”

    “I see you shaking your head, Lakshmi (a participant for all three years of CAC programs), why?”

    “Because I do not see.”

    And therein lies the rub.

    There is too often an abyss between policy and practice. Between awareness and behavior. I know unprotected sex is the leading cause of HIV, and yet? I know I am not legally allowed to hit this child with a stick when she misbehaves, and yet?

    I know I’m supposed to jump on the #femaleempowerment / #genderequality / #heforshe bandwagon… and?

    How do we bridge this daunting gap? With a ball, perhaps?

    We think so. By the end of the program it felt more like the male-dominated group actually believed in what they were saying, and the women were standing up for themselves. It is a slow, uphill trek, but probably the most important climb in the world.

    So, can men take care of babies? Can women play football?

    YES! … if that is their choice. What is yours?