• 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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  • A Glimpse at the Future

    Friday, August 7, 2015. The Malaika Foundation in the Democratic Republic of Congo is the first program partnership for our new ASK for Choice curriculum for female empowerment.

    Every day this week we had local street children watching our trainings at the FIFA Football for Hope Center in Kalebuka, DRC. This is not unusual. However one young girl caught our attention. Not more than five or six herself, she was carrying her infant brother on her back the duration of the week as she intently watched our trainings. She was the caretaker of her infant brother despite being a young child herself. But what was happening On-Field during the week will begin to address cultural change for the future in terms of gender equity and community responsibility. The Malaika Foundation is our first ASK for Choice Partnership and will be using sport to bring gender policies to life in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

    The interest in our ASK for Choice partnership was tremendous from the Malaika Foundation which is led by Noella Coursaris. Both the total overall attendance and the female attendance were the highest achieved for any program in CAC’s history. 238 coaches participated in our training, with 140 of the participants being women. Together the men and women learned from our ASK for Choice curriculum.   ASK for Choice aims to use sport to bring gender policies to life.

    Based on comprehensive research, thorough M&E and 25 years of experience, CAC has developed ASK for Choice which aims to enhance the Attitudes, Skills and Knowledge of women and their communities to educate them to be drivers of change. ASK for Choice will strengthen the roles of women in sport and society and create a generation of leaders with community responsibility.

    As an ASK for Choice Center, the Malaika Foundation is expected to work with CAC and deliver measurable results. ASK for Choice will increase partners’ capacity to bring about sustainable, tangible change with regard to gender equality and women’s rights. Along with our program this year, we also were able to meet with Thérèse Lukenge, the Minister of Sport in Katanga Province. Alongside the government, we will be working together to bring gender policies to life in Katanga Province.

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  • A Hopeful Transition

    August 7th 2014. CAC volunteer Layla Joudeh blogs about her CAC experience in southern Africa and returning home.
    7 weeks later and I’m sitting at home in South Carolina. I never thought this day would come. And by the end of the trip, I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted my time with CAC to end. Back in the USA, a different life awaits- college, friends, and family. I think part of my hesitation towards my time ending was the fear of adapting to a Western life again. 7 weeks ago I was focused on transitioning from busy college student in New England to soccer coach in southern Africa. Now my focus is on adapting back to school with all the experiences I gained from CAC. The last few days in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo were a great way to end my trip but did make leaving a little more difficult.
     
    After partnering with the Georges Malaika Foundation (GMF) and the FIFA Football for Hope Center in the previous week, we had the opportunity to work with GMF’s school. We played games with GMF’s students, teachers, and parents. The Monday with the students was one of my favorite days of the entire seven weeks in southern Africa. All of GMF’s students are young females, so we worked with about 60 girls that were 4, 5, and 9 years old. When we first pulled into the school, the younger students greeted us with a welcome song. Charlie, Jamie, and I tried singing along, but we didn’t sound quite as good as the girls. We spent the rest of the day playing our games with the students. The girls were a little hesitant when we started Circle of Friends- our simple, fun warm up- but as soon as Charlie and Jamie showed off their dance moves as part of the warm up, the girls didn’t stop laughing and smiling. The students didn’t know English so our main forms of communication were silly faces, funny voices, kicking around the ball, and some cone balancing on our heads (see above picture). Anything that we did, the girls were eager to try. Needless to say, Jamie’s elephant impression was a hit. At the end of our break, there was a parade of elephants traversing the field. Playing with the kids was incredibly fun. After seven weeks of coaching, I’ve never had a dull moment with children. They are eager to the play the games and are easily entertained, which makes our jobs a lot more fun(ny).
     
    The following two days were spent working with teachers and parents of the students. When I first approached one of the moms, she berated me in a fairly motherly tone about how my shorts reminded her of underwear. Most of the parents we worked with dressed in the traditional patterned cloth dresses or skirts that came down to their ankles. I realized I was a little out of place in the group of mothers. But soon after we started playing games, everyone was having fun together. We had a pretty competitive group that absolutely loved handball games. The parents and teachers were strong, athletic, and didn’t like losing. On the last day, Charlie and I participated in a few games while we were coaching. We were having a blast, and I truly didn’t want the day to end. For our last game, we brought the students, parents, and teachers on the field for a round of scary soccer- a fun adaptation of rock, paper, scissors. The girls were cheering and excited to play. The adults were getting more invested in the games as their students’ enthusiasm grew.  When a team won a round of scary soccer, the parents, teachers, and kids would all jump up and down and chant their team’s name. I watched from a far for one round of scary soccer and couldn’t help but smile and laugh about this awesome, fun, and funny experience. Different generations were working together and having fun because of a simple game. Sport gave different generations a medium to connect and learn together. That was one of my favorite parts about CAC- watching age and cultural barriers breaking down because of simple, fun games.
     
    As I try to get accustomed to life back in the United States, I can’t help but think of the people I had the opportunity to work with for the past seven weeks.They taught me that adapting to other cultures, people, and communities can be much easier once common ground was found. For the past seven weeks that common ground ranged from a dirt field, a school’s soccer field, a tennis court, and a FIFA Football for Hope Center. Maybe next time I need to adapt to a new group of people, environment, or job, I’ll ask my colleagues to find some grass or dirt to play on because that sure did teach me a lot this summer.
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  • DRC Launch Our Peace Day Football Resource Packet

    July 25, 2014.  On Monday Coaches Across Continents announced the largest-ever sport for social impact partnership and released a free football resource packet in the build up for One Day One Goal on Peace Day, 21 September.  Already over 100 organizations worldwide have requested and received this football resource packet.  Within our first week, one group, the Georges Malaika Foundation in Kalebuka, DRC, have had 65 coaches play the Peace Day games during their training with CAC.

    The Peace Day games are fun. They help us with some skills such as speed, fitness, quick movements and they have a social message. For example teamwork, respect and telling everyone that men and women have the same opportunities. – Elvis Nshimba, Teacher, Georges Malaika Foundation

    By 21 September, Coaches Across Continents and Peace One Day expect these specially-developed games will be played in over 130 countries, by thousands of communities, impacting hundreds of thousands of children and coaches.
    The important Peace Day messages such as violence in the community and understanding stereotypes are clear through the training. Technically, we have learnt passing and control in the games along with the strategy of football. All the coaches had a lot of fun and appreciated the training which has changed their way of thinking about their role in the community.
    – Jerome Ilunga, Sports Manager, Georges Malaika Foundation
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