First international meeting of the Girl Power! program in Leiden, The Netherlands
Soccer for girls, success for all
- Key similarities like the empowerment of women through sports were discussed by the representatives from Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Nicaragua, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal.
- Microcredit for young mothers, an approach already successful in Ethiopia
Leiden, 27th September, 2013 – Hosted by ICDI (International Child Development Initiatives), one of the Dutch organizations which implements the Girl Power Program in six countries (Nicaragua, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone), the first international meeting with local partner organizations took place this week in Leiden, The Netherlands.
Non-profit organizations from very distant parts of the world and different contexts have come together to discuss their work in promoting the rights of women and the protection of vulnerable children. “They might live in a Muslim country, completely different from mine, where women are not so free, but I have learnt from Saima that we are all the same. Our fight is the same one, we don’t want to be part of the problem but of the solution. Swimming against the tide is common to all women in every part of the world”, explained Isaura Osejo Balladares, social worker of the Nicaraguan NGO Asociación La Amistad, about her Pakistani colleague Saima Toor, coordinator of the program for the organization Bedari.
After two years since the Girl Power program began, the six countries have been implementing different activities like helplines for women in Nepal and Pakistan; microcredit schemes for mothers in Ethiopia; and protection and psychological support for girls and young women victims of sexual violence in Nicaragua and Sierra Leone. And in almost all cases, one of the largest successes has come through a simple idea: soccer for girls. A sport for men played by women. “It took time to convince their families and we faced problems like the dress code because the uniform couldn’t be too tight. But now it is very well accepted, we have several teams of girls and they have gained self-confidence and strength through soccer”, claimed Mamun Kazi, representative of the Bangladeshi NGO Shariatpur Development Society (SDS).
Besides soccer, providing young mothers with financial support and strengthening their networks against sexual abuse are future challenges, which aim to better protect the girls and other children living in harsh conditions.
The Girl Power is a five year program (2010-2015) funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and implemented by the Child Rights Alliance* in 10 countries: Bangladesh, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Liberia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Sierra Leone and Zambia. The program aims to fight the injustices girls and young women face daily in these countries.
*The Child Rights Alliance is formed by Plan Nederland, Defence for Children - ECPAT, Child Helpline International, International Child Development Initiatives - ICDI, Free Press Unlimited and Women Win.