Our organization helped host a series of sports activities involving women and men in the Rachuonyo South district community in Kenya. The sports events were accompanied by workshop discussions to create awareness on the rights of women. Our focus was on empowering women and building community consensus on key gender issues such as reproductive health, property rights for women, HIV/AIDS, violence against women, and rights of women in the decision-making processes of the community. The activities were designed to include adult men and women as well as teenage boys and girls. The project emphasized sports leadership training, life skills development, and team building. It increased self-development, self-esteem, and physically active and healthy lifestyles in girls. By using sports as a starting point for female empowerment, we plan to make it reality for girls to fully participate in any sphere of life they choose.
The following were results of the intervention:
We undertook a situational analysis of issues in the community and then asked for community input in prioritizing these issues. Gender inequality was considered the most fundamental of the many gender issues present in the community. Once we had decided to focus on improving gender equality, we involved the community in choosing specific areas to be addressed, and identifying the resources that were available for the project, such as school playgrounds for hosting sporting events, classrooms for community workshops, and government support. In this way, the entire community was involved in action planning -- they decided what was to be done, why it needed to be done, who was to do it, when it was to be done, where it was to be done, and how it was to be done.
During our assessment, we also conducted a baseline survey in Rachuonyo South district so that we could use it for comparison after the intervention had been implemented.
This project focused on empowerment of women and girls in sports to create a strong forum for advocacy on women’s rights. The project beneficiaries were mainly girls and women, including widows, disabled women, female children heading families, and women in association with people living with HIV; these are groups of people that are vulnerable to violence and isolation due to their social status. The project aimed at empowering the beneficiaries to take a leading role in prevention and management of all the above mentioned issues for their own advancement and security as well as that of the community.
Empowering girls and women through sports, combined with increased awareness about HIV and women’s rights, will provide them with the knowledge and skills required for their increased participation in prevention and response to Gender Based Violence, and HIV prevention and management. These are major critical issues for women’s improved quality of life.
This is in line with Kenyan government policy, which views promotion of gender equality as a cross- cutting issue in all sectors. Female empowerment is emphasized in all important government programs, policies, and laws, including Vision 2030, Economic Development Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS), and the constitution, which guarantees equality of rights and participation without any discrimination - including gender discrimination.
To improve women’s social status through sports
To increase women’s skills in football, volleyball, tennis, basketball, and sports for the disabled.
To increase girls’ awareness on HIV prevention and management
To increase awareness on sexual violence and gender based discrimination
To increase women’s role in prevention and response to gender based violence
To reduce stigmatization and isolation for HIV positive women and girls
To encourage respect and harmonious co-existence in the society
We held a series of sports activities because we believe that participation in sports is a great way to break gender stereotypes in the community; strong cultural norms exist in Rachuonyo South district that have historically prevented girls from playing sports, and encouraging everyone to participate together started a dialogue on women’s rights. In this way, we used participation in sports to spark discussion about larger issues of female empowerment and involvement.
To ensure project sustainability and ownership, a strong partnership for lobbying and policy orientation was developed with relevant sector ministries such as the ministries of education, youth, and culture. We also involved district leadership and youth councils in the planning and implementation of the project. We formed a strong partnership with the respective schools’ AIDS Control Units/Peer Educators Clubs. We will continue to offer mentoring and support to the community through these clubs. Our offices will be open for the clubs to approach us at any time and ask for any kind of assistance. We shall also remain open to referrals that will be made from the clubs, which will require specialized attention. This approach will ensure continuity and sustenance of the program over a long period.
A major impact of this program includes improved self-confidence, self-discipline, and self-motivation in the women and girls who participated. The program empowered them to gain valuable information about relationships, violence and abuse, and also to develop self-awareness and a sense of personal ownership over their bodies. They gained the ability to share experiences, develop healthy relationships, avoid risky situations, stay in school, avoid early marriages, avoid violent relationships and HIV infection, and provide informed support to others.
Of those we have served, 65% have reported improvements in their circumstances. These improvements are particularly in the areas of careers and community support for the realization of their right to live free from violence and abuse. This was demonstrated through support in forming healthy relationships, staying longer in school, and avoiding violent relationships and HIV infection.
We trained 120 girls as gender and sports leaders and role models to impact other girls in the communities where they live. Through the project, we have learned more on how to incorporate sports into our broader programs.
Through sports forums, the project has increased women and girls’ knowledge on HIV prevention and management as well as reproductive health rights. Through this integrated approach, sports have not only been taken as an activity for competition and leisure but as a discipline that requires effort and skills to enhance human rights and national development.