The connection between sports and this year’s International Women’s Day theme “DigitALL: Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality,” may be hard to recognise right away. We often link technology and innovation with fancy gadgets and trinkets, but when you really think about it, innovation is all about applying something new to something that already exists, and we believe using football to deliver health messages is pretty innovative!
At Tackle, our team consists of a talented and diverse group of women both on and off the pitch who understand the importance of this year’s theme not only to their work but to achieving gender equality. We recently sat down with a few of the many women across the three regions of Africa where we work to hear their thoughts on Women’s Day and how they relate to the theme.
In Zambia, we are working on Controlling HIV in Key and Underserved Populations (CHEKUP I), a USAID (United States Agency for International Development) funded project in partnership with the Centre for Disease Control in Zambia (CIDRZ). Womba Chikweti, our Procurement and Compliance Officer for the project, spends most of her time off the pitch. However, her role is critical to the success of the project, as she ensures that all resources from our amazing partners and donors are used effectively and achieve our goals. Her position requires a range of technical skills that she understands many young girls may not have access to due to the digital divide.
“This year’s Women’s Day theme highlights the importance of ensuring that women and girls have equal access to digital technologies, like the internet and mobile phones as well as the skills and knowledge needed to use them effectively. More importantly, it emphasizes the need to address the gender digital divide, which refers to the disparities in access to and use of digital technologies between men and women, where women are left behind” says Womba.
Patricia Peace Aanyu, who works as a Tackle Project Officer in East Africa, understands the significance of innovation and technology in her daily job. She is involved in a project funded by the Laureus Sol Foundation, which aims to improve HIV/AIDS and SRHR responses among young individuals in Greater Hoima, Uganda.
“As a Tackle Project Officer, I own and frequently use a phone and a computer. These make my work easy when it comes to communication with partners, teammates, coaches, and Tackle staff across the globe. I use these devices for online meetings, reporting purposes, and tracking my field sessions and time spent on specific tasks. Technology is making it easier for me,” says Patricia.
Shivan, a fellow Tackle Project Officer in East Africa, talks about how sensitization and advocacy efforts have been made easier with the use of technology.
Together with the women of Tackle, we join the global call for equal access to technology and technological skills. Without narrowing the digital divide, the girls and women on team Tackle and all over the world will not be able to contribute to sexual health research, have up-to-date knowledge on how to protect themselves from HIV and STIS and would not be able to know their rights when it comes to sexual health crimes such as FGM/C and child marriage. Without equal access to technology, women and girls will be robbed of their sense of self-agency and unable to claim their right to safe contraceptives, Anti-retroviral (ARV) Drugs and self-testing kits.
For us at Tackle, equal access to technology and opening opportunities for innovation is important to our work. HIV and AIDS research is constantly revealing changes that we need to keep up with to continue being effective. Women and girls need to be a part of the research on issues that directly and disproportionately affect them. That is why in West Africa, we have Dr Bintou Tioté leading the Community Led Monitoring project, a project that trains and involves young persons including women in research methods that are specific to the needs of the community.
And in West Africa, we organized a special football drill and session to commemorate International Women’s Day. Sponsored by Fondation Sococim, the event took place in Rufisque Senegal, and it involved a day of football to bring young boys and girls together and raise awareness about gender equality. The session which highlighted the importance of gender equality was designed to show the challenges faced by women and girls in society, and how everyone can work together to overcome them.
Our team is constantly looking for ways to innovatively reach more young people with important messages about their sexual and reproductive health and rights and we are working to integrate more technology into our programmes. We plan on continuing to tackle issues that may arise within the use of technology including digital violence against women and girls, which is one of the many topics covered in our more than 200 football drills! We hope to promote equal access to information, training, and resources for female athletes and teams, as well as challenge gender stereotypes and promote gender equality in sports. By working towards equal access to technology and innovation, we can empower women and girls to take control of their lives and contribute to positive change in their communities.
As women’s month ends, recognizing the role of women in all spheres should continue beyond March which is Women’s month. That’s why we are excitedly anticipating the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, where we will see women’s sports participation on one of the biggest global stages. In the meantime, we hope to get some early “women in football” action through Tackle’s Football Marathons. We want to see more women on the pitch this Football Marathon season and we’re putting the brilliant technology of Footy Addicts our partners for the 2023 Football Marathons to good use and to make it even easier to sign up. Be sure to sign up for a great cause and support the Women and girls who tackle and the entire Tackle team by getting on the field and putting your Tackle skills to the test!