Making the journey from the shores of England to the shores of Lake Victoria, new Programme Manager Ash Phillips stepped off a plane last month to start his work with our Tanzanian colleagues using football to combat child marriage. In this article, we catch up with Ash’s first few weeks and take a look at why the programme he’s supporting is so important.
Ash: “I arrived blurry eyed in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, ready to begin my work with TackleAfrica (well after a few hours sleep). I am Ash, and I’ve moved from Southampton, UK to Mwanza, Tanzania to be TackleAfrica’s new Programme Manager here. I’ll be facilitating education courses using football sessions to prevent child marriage.”
The statistics on child marriage are staggering. According to UNICEF, each year, fifteen million girls are married before the age of 18. That is twenty eight girls every minute. One every two seconds. There are many reasons for child marriage, but it’s rooted in gender inequality and poverty, with girls particularly negatively affected. Ash’s work in Tanzania involves collaborating with local partner Plan Tanzania, with funds from Plan, the European Commission and the German government. Ash is supporting the training of Tanzanian coaches, working with them to effectively deliver interactive football sessions that address the issues of child marriage. The ultimate goal for the coaches is to educate and inform their players and communities so that together we can stop the practice. It’s ambitious, but breaking down long-held beliefs and practices can only work when community leaders and role models, such as football coaches, are on board.
Ash had a busy start, getting to know our coaching colleagues in Tanzania and of course seeing his first football match. “My first week in Dar was spent organising and attending meetings with our partners and sorting essential items like a Tanzania SIM card before moving up north to Mwanza. I did have time to visit with Coach Omari who has been coaching with TackleAfrica for many years. Omari took me to see a group of young adults he mentors who were performing at a school graduation in the city. Unbeknownst to me, Omari had arranged for me to give a little congratulatory speech to the graduating classes! I managed to summon a few words of congratulations to the children and their teachers which Omari translated into Swahili for me. After the ceremony we went to watch the youth football team Omari coaches play a cup match, and I am glad to say they won 2-1 and played some great stuff in the process. It is exhilarating to see the lasting impact being involved with TackleAfrica has had on Omari’s life and how he is transferring that to the local community through his own sport development charity and youth football coaching.”
After Dar, Ash moved north to Mwanza and Geita to run training courses. These two regions surrounding Lake Victoria have high rates of child marriage and high rates of HIV and the great work our football coaches are doing here in collaboration with Plan continues to see results. The first course went well, working with teachers and supporting them in their work to combat child marriage in their communities.
A final word from Ash on his hopes for the future: “After an exciting week in Dar I am very much looking forward to continuing our anti-child marriage projects in Tanzania and hope with my local colleagues we can make a lasting impact in young girls’ lives the way TackleAfrica has so positively impacted Omari. Lots of work, fun, and travel on the horizon during the next twelve months: I am looking forward to it all.”
Are you interested in TackleAfrica’s work and want to get involved? We’d love to hear from you, whether it’s donating, volunteering, organising a football marathon or even going to support one of our projects in Africa. Visit www.tackleafrica.org/get-involved for more details.