Despite national efforts to promote gender equality and challenge negative attitudes towards women, many girls in rural Zambia are growing up in a context of poverty and discrimination. All too often, their rights are denied and their opportunities are restricted. Zambia has strong policies and laws in place to protect women’s rights, but new approaches are needed to transform attitudes and promote practical change.
United Purpose is supporting a local partner organisation, EduSport, to deliver the exciting ‘Go Sisters!’ project, which works across five provinces in Zambia. It uses community-based netball and football leagues to run leadership development opportunities for marginalised girls, helping them to grow in confidence, develop life skills, improve their literacy and access vocational and entrepreneurial training.
Girls’ rights are also promoted within local communities by building trust with the girls’ families and running community tournaments to raise awareness of girls’ rights and provide a safe space to challenge negative gender stereotypes.
For girls living in rural communities, where attitudes to gender roles are often very traditional, opportunities to develop leadership skills can be few and far between. Through sport, Go Sisters provides girls with practical opportunities to grow in confidence as they coach and mentor their peers.
This has proved to be a positive experience for 18-year-old Naomi, an active member and peer leader at the Go Sisters Action Team in Livingstone, Southern Province. In her own words, she recounts how her involvement in Go Sisters has changed her life:
“Personally, it wasn’t easy for me to become a leader in my community and [to get into] the placement school where I now go to conduct sports and life skills sessions. Most of the secondary schools are far from our communities, making it unsafe for most of the girls who are travelling long distances every day to attend classes. I come from a very low-income home and often people will not recognise you as an important person because of your background.
“My life in sport has taught me to be patient, nice to people around me and [to] become focused, especially with my career. I am a role model to the other girls at the school, where I conduct sessions, and [also in] my community. I don’t look at where I come from – anyone can be anything good if they want.
“My upbringing has not been easy, struggling to get to school and not knowing who I really was. But because of the Go Sisters programme I can say that I now know who I am and I believe in myself and work hard.
“Through Go Sisters’ entrepreneurship workshops that I participate in, I have learnt how to start a business and access grants or loans from financial institutions. Through the knowledge I have gained, I now manage a small business, selling makeup and clothes to my fellow girls and other community members. Sometimes I sell at big events, such as tournaments and festivals. I am now able to save for college and support my family.”