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Mobilizing grassroots sports for youth development and peacebuilding

Copyrights: East Africa Cup

Mobilizing grassroots sports for youth development and peacebuilding

After two editions held online in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, East Africa Cup reconvened physically from 24 to 28 August 2022 in Moshi Kilimanjaro.

East Africa Cup (EAC) is an annual sport, educational and cultural event mobilizing organizations and institutions from East Africa region using sports and culture as tools to engage with the youth, inspire and empower them to believe in themselves and to make a difference in their home communities. The event is founded on the slogan “One week in Moshi, One year in the Communities”.

Through this one-week event hosted by the Moshi Technical School, interactive workshops, sports and games competitions as well as artistic and cultural gatherings are held. Workshops happen in the morning, with different parallel sessions facilitated by grassroots organizations leveraging on their expertise and tools for interaction with the young adolescents aged between 13 and 16. They are engaged and enlightened on a variety of topics and issues including mental health, transformative masculinity, storytelling, gender based violence, entrepreneurship, critical thinking, youth development, poverty alleviation, interreligious dialogue, etc., all geared towards building their awareness and capacity to become change makers at their community level.

The UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa was in attendance of this grassroots sports and cultural event in a scoping mission to gage the potential to champion the UNESCO Fit for Live initiative in the region.

“At Tai, we believe in the power of storytelling and technology to entice and bring social behavioral change. EAC is a unique sports event that offers us a holistic platform to reach out to our primary audience, the young adolescents. Using our interactive storytelling design process and animations, we engage with youth and teach them about their rights, we discuss about overcoming taboos, discrimination and any stigma around sexual reproductive health, persons with disabilities and HIV/AIDS, among others," said Ms Mariam Mhina, Communications and Partnerships Manager and Debora Maboya, Head of Operations and Programs, Facilitators of the Storytelling Session, Tai Tanzania.

Ms. Lydia Mshemu, Programme Officer for Advocacy and Health Education, Facilitator, Transforming Masculinity Session, of Youth Peace Makers added her voice saying "peace starts from within, and it is our belief that Peace is the outcome of justice in any given society. To achieve that status, there is a need for citizen participation in planning, decision-making and implementation of the agreed goals for community development. (…) When you start with sports, you can gather as many youth as possible, and through sports, we can unpack many other programs and activities targeting our youth audiences, including discussion on transformative masculinity as well as on mental health”.

Afternoon’s session at the EAC were dedicated to sports competitions involving teams from grassroots sports organizations constituted around age groups as well as gender, with football as the most unifying activity for healthy confrontation outlining sport values such as team spirit, fair play, respect, non-discrimination, inclusion and others, upheld on the football pitch.

“We use sport combined with community outreach and development activities to give young people the skills and confidence they need to aim higher, achieve more and improve their lives.” George Nange, CEO, MYSA.

“We are a sport for good organisation using football to change young people lives and improve our communities” Angaza Sport and Development.

Chess game featured prominently in the EAC 2022, with dedicated practice classes that involved first time Chess players who acquired the rudiments of the game and in a record time and were able to participate in a demonstration Chess competition.

“We spread fun, joy of playing chess and understanding of its benefits, as this game teaches and strengthens mental capacity in children, especially in boosting their academic performances, enhancing their critical thinking, memory concentration and visual skills, but also sharpening their self-esteem, confidence and determination.” Prisca Lema, Founder, Iyanna Foundation.

Spaces for artistic and cultural performances were provided in the evenings as platform for exchange and interaction through the display of intangible cultural heritage, cultural expressions, values and identity representations from different communities and groups participating in the East Africa Cup. Behind skilled youths performing were organizations dedicated to engaging with the youth and contribute to shaping their lives using performing arts, dance and theatre.

EAC championing UNESCO Fit for Life

Fit for Life (F4L), UNESCO-led people and society-centered initiative where grassroots sports organizations have an essential role to play to increase participation in sport and to enhance quality physical education was presented to an audience of about 30 leaders and managers of participating organizations to the 2022 EAC. During his presentation, Mr. Ngandeu Ngatta Hugue, Programme Specialist for Social and Human Sciences at UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa in Nairobi, welcomed the relevance of the EAC and shared perspectives for collaboration, in line with Fit For Life Initiative: “UNESCO and EAC could develop a framework for the regional implementation of the F4L, with a view to better document, measure and further promote the contribution of grassroots sports to development and peace.”

EAC and leaders of grassroots sports organizations agreed to reconvene with UNESCO in a consultation to effectively unpack the potential of F4L, and to develop an action plan for enhancing synergies and collaboration. With about 300 participants to the 2022 edition, organizers are looking forward to having more sports and games displayed in the next edition foreseen in June-August 2023.

“Keep in mind what the EAC has been previously – with normally between 1500-2000 participants and 50-60 organizations presents. We clearly envisage we will return to this level as we manage to shake the immediate blows of COVID-19 and other factors” Elly Omondi, EAC Secretariat.

The importance of initiatives as East Africa Cup and the prominence and relevance of the transformative power of grassroots organizations could not be overemphasized. And echoing this message on the occasion of the International Day of Peace is only justice to the work they are doing, with very little resources.

In her Message on the occasion of the International Day of Peace 2022, the Director-General of UNESCO, Ms. Audrey Azoulay echoed the words of Ms Eleanor Roosevelt: “It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.”

This call resonate with the work of the East Africa Cup and their commitment to empower the youth as agents of change and transformation for lasting peace in their communities.

Read the original article on the UNESCO website

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Monday, September 26, 2022 - 19:01

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