Lots of people ask us how (and why) we connect football with young people’s sexual health, and if you’ve not seen it in action it can seem like a strange combination. Actually, the connection is simple: young people don’t always want to talk about sex, but they do want to play football. They’re often uncomfortable listening to doctors in white coats, but they will listen to their coach. So our approach is to give the information to football coaches in the form of interactive football games, and they can pass this information on to their players in a fun and memorable way. Coaches get new ideas for sessions, players get to play the game they love, and we get to reach thousands of players every year with sexual health information that can help them live healthier, safer lives.
Our coach the coach approach is now working across eight African countries, with each country and cohort using sessions designed especially for them and the context they work in. Here’s an example of how we recently trained coaches in Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso’s second largest city, where Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a huge issue.
This course was funded by Hogan Lovells LLP, and implemented in collaboration with our local partner organisation Maia Bobo. We were thankful to welcome the fantastic community coaches and community facilitators from Maia Bobo, as well as teachers of local primary schools and staff from the local offices of the Ministries of Education and Social Issues and Gender. Now trained, these coaches are going back to their communities, and passing on the information they have learnt to their football teams.
The main objectives of this training course were to improve the participants’ knowledge about FGM and train them in how to use the sessions to inform their communities about the harm this practice does. Coaches participated in theory sessions in the classroom and then practical sessions, learning how to deliver sessions effectively out on the football pitch.
At the end of our training courses, coaches have the knowledge and skills needed to become effective sexual health educators. They also receive a certificate, footballs, bibs and cones, t-shirts and a copy of the training manual. Importantly, coaches become part of the TackleAfrica family, and ready to tackle the issues their communities face, using football.
We spoke to Ouattara Haoua, a community facilitator from Maia Association, about the training course. She told us, “Despite the efforts of the government to fight FGM, excision (FGM) is still ongoing and repeated. TackleAfrica with its programme will contribute significantly to the struggle against this scourge which tramples women’s dignity. The fact that children, youth and the main stakeholders have been involved is an important thing.” Sidibe Mariam, a teacher from the local school , Ecole Primaire Privée Emmanuel, said “this training has built my capacity on FGM issues. It has deepened my knowledge on the causes and consequences of FGM and how to fight against excision. I am happy about TackleAfrica.”
The fight to end FGM won’t happen overnight, and we recognise that it will take time. We’re proud to be a part of that fight and we thank the communities we work with to achieve this goal.
If you are interested in our work and want to get involved, please visit www.tackleafrica.org/get-involved