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Leveraging sport for social change

Copyrights: Mohamed El Shishtawy

Leveraging sport for social change

To harness the power of sport addressing social problems, governments must play an active part in engaging with the youth.

[We are calling for articles on youth leadership and engagement in sport and development in the lead-up to International Youth Day on 12 August - we welcome your contributions!]

Young people, particularly those from developing communities, face many challenges, which make them more vulnerable to drugs, violence, crime and gang involvement. These challenges affect not only individual but also impact society.

Youth lead youth

Sport can help address these challenges. In Egypt, the Ministries of Youth and Sport and of Health and Population set up a campaign, in cooperation with the Addiction Treatment and Abuse Fund, to challenge some of these social issues. About 18,000 young volunteers participated in this initiative, and more than 35 million individuals in Egypt and the area interacted in it.

The Ministry of Youth and Sport in every country has the responsibility to engage young people in the society, include them in their events, and make them a part of national and international policies and activities. In Egypt, the ministry has shown support for young people, believing in their role in the society.

In this regard, the ministry has established an initiative called Youth leading Youth to imbibe a volunteer culture within young people, and include them in every national event that the ministry participates in.

Egypt has organized many sports tournaments in recent times, the last of which was the Handball World Cup. Almost 500 young men participated in it, and the event was incredibly successful. This urged the President of the International Federation to thank them in person.

Sport and the labor market

The labor market and sport are two sides of the same coin. Many public campaigns have recognized the importance of sport for the labor market, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, sport helps young people learn to work in a team, be a good leader and relieve their stress. This, in turn, increases their productivity and self-confidence in the workplace, making them more prepared to compete in the labor market.

Sport for social issues

Everyone has the right to participate in sport: men and women, boys and girls, rich and poor. Thus, it can be a space to tackle gender related issues. Girls and women form a large part of the community. In some communities, especially in developing countries, they face many challenges because of their gender, which prevents them from participating in sport as well. The role of sport, then, can be to address and end violence and harassment against women and girls.

In Egypt, the Ministry of Youth and Sport have supported women and girls in participating in sport activities, in an attempt to increase their self-confidence and protect them from violence. An initiative called Youth against Harassment, in partnership with GIZ Egypt, works towards community development and raising awareness on issues of harassment and gender-based violence.

Sport can also help immigrants engage with their new communities and reduce the barriers between them and the local population. Sport, thus, has a tremendous effect on society, and can improve young people’s lives, making them resilient and ready to face the problems facing society, such as poverty, inequality and unemployment.

Sport and the future

Technology is a game changer in all fields, and sport is no different. Sport can use technology to improve and analyze young people’s performance. Furthermore, for disabled young people, technology can assist them with their disability and help sport adapt to their needs.

“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, the power to unit people in way that little else dose,” said Nelson Mandela. Sport can be the stage that leverages and addresses issues of violence and social exclusion.


Mahmoud Shihata is a member of the UN SGDs Advocates Program with the UN Resident Coordinator Office in Egypt. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the Faculty of Physical Education, Menoufia University, Egypt.


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Friday, July 23, 2021 - 12:05

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