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South Sudanese girls team-up for independence at the East Africa Cup


South Sudanese girls team-up for independence at the East Africa Cup

Girls from the under 16 South Sudan team participate in the East Africa Cup as the country awaits independence.

An unforgettable journey

It took the girls' team from South Sudan five days to reach the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. This is the first time these girls have travelled outside South Sudan, an autonomous region to be recognised as an independent nation on 9 July 2011.

But goalkeeper Harriet Dawa believes this long journey was worth it: "I felt really exhausted from the journey, but I have no regrets because this tournament will help me learn so much from other participants. Also, I’ve already made many friends here".

This illustrates one of the core objectives of the East Africa Cup, which is to bring together youth from various cultural backgrounds, and help them learn from one another.

A sense of normality
This unifying aim is especially relevant for the delegation from South Sudan, a region "having been in an environment of conflict for more than 20 years", according to Modi Enosa Mbaraza, executive director of the Young Women Christian Association.

Therefore, the East Africa Cup can also be viewed as a neutral environment where youth from various horizons can interact in a peaceful way: "because of our recent history, our girls have violence in their heart. This tournament enables them to interact with youth from other countries in a peaceful way, and meet girls who haven’t grown up in a situation of war".

It is the first time a team from South Sudan participates in the East Africa Cup. Other newcomers to the 2011 edition include Burundi and Zimbabwe, two countries also affected by recent conflicts.

Representing more than an organisation
These young women are representing the Young Women Christian Association South Sudan, an organisation initially set up to assist women and girls in the late nineties. "In our situation in Sudan, women are considered third class citizens, and are not given equal opportunities in terms of education" noted executive director Modi Enosa Mbaraza.

In this situation, football was progressively included in the programmes of the organisation as a way to engage young women and girls in regular activities. Taking part in these activities is also seen as a way to help build their self-esteem and interact with one another. And for defensive stopper Rene John, there is no doubt that girls should be able to play the beautiful game: "what a boy can do, a girl can do. I feel really proud when I play football, proud for myself, and proud for my country".

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Chris Middleton


Thursday, June 23, 2011 - 11:00

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