Gender & Sports for Development
Sure Start; Today’s Girls are Tomorrow’s Leaders
The Sure Start program engages adolescent girls in leadership through sports and gender and rights awareness education. Sure Start actively challenges the oppression girls feel from subordination to gender norms which prevent them from exercising their full potential. It aims to build the leadership potential of girls by building their confidence and agency and creating opportunities for girls to participate and make decisions in private and public spaces. The program operates as an afterschool club activity in schools in Tororo.
Sure Start was conceived in 2002 as the Young People’s Project, when children started visiting MIFUMI Advice Centres asking questions and seeking assistance over situations violence and abuse in their homes and communities. The karate sport and its disciplines were introduced in 2007 as an instrument for social change and empowerment of girls around community schools to bring about improvements in their status of girls, completion rates and understanding of gender relations. Girls act as role models for other girls, leading to more girls developing self-awareness of their inner strength and confidence needed to stay in school and resist unwanted pressures that lead to early marriages and HIV infections
Issues Sure Start tackles
- Absence of female leadership and opportunities for girls which means that policies passed very rarely take into account girls’ needs. The program creates opportunities for girls to exercise their rights and demand for change to effect girl-friendly policies and practices.
- Attitudes and practices steeped in gender norms that endanger girls and inhibit their progress. These attitudes are held by the girls themselves and the wider community and see girls as inferior and do not create spaces for girls to exercise their full potential. The program engages girls and boys to educate them about the dangers these attitudes present to encourage them to reject these discriminative norms.
- Violence against girls which is often manifested at school and at home which affect girls’ psychological and physical wellbeing. Girls are educated about violence and referral pathways that encourage them to report situations of violence.
- Lack of financial power. With men and boys looked at as breadwinners, women and girls very rarely take part in the planning and decision making processes related to finances in and outside the home. Girls are being engaged in small scale income generating activities and training on financial literacy to enable them generate income to support themselves.
- Child Early and Forced Marriage which is usually preceded by teenage pregnancy. The program’s content looks to keep girls in school which is crucial to delaying marriage, age of first sexual encounter and pregnancy. Mentors also inspire girls to pursue careers and therefore stay in school.
To build the capacity of girls to take initiative to effect change in their communities for the advancement of girls’ issues, Sure Start undertakes a series of activities;
- Training on gender and rights—Here girls are trained on gender issues which are central to girls understanding the power they have to change their situations. This self-awareness makes them more confident to tackle issues that they thought they had no say over before. Knowledge on violence, sexual and reproductive health and rights, and legislation affecting girls is also imparted.
- Karate training — Participating in karate breaks stereotypes about girls’ participation in sport and indeed a sport considered very masculine and therefore out of bounds to girls. Girls excelling at karate gives them the confidence to venture into other areas that may be considered the preserve of men and boys for example leadership.
- Mentorship—Because many girls do not have access to female role models that can inspire, they may not have ambition beyond the traditionally prescribed markers of success for women and girls. The mentorship program allows girls to interact with women upstanding women within the community who offer advice on how to navigate school and life, and how to build careers.
- Exchange visits— Many girls in the program only have experiences limited to communities in which they live and go to school. Exchange visits give the girls an opportunity to contend with new environments and ideas. This challenges to question beliefs that they may have held before. Exchange visits also creates social capital as the girls make friends with girls from different backgrounds from whom they can get advice or work with towards a common cause.
- Karate and Leadership camp–The annual Sure Start karate and leadership camp is the program’s flagship leadership training initiative. Here, Trainers of Trainees undergo a two week comprehensive and rigorous leadership and karate curriculum. They are then tasked to deliver this training to their peers.
What are Sure Start girls saying about leadership?
Nabuduwa Sarah Wanzunula, S.1, Tororo Girls’ School
“I learnt that though people say women can’t be leaders, I have come to know they can. Sure Start has taught me how to stand out from the crowd and fight for what women deserve. It has also taught me to be confident and courageous. It has taught me to never give up, and most of all it has taught me how to be a feminist.”
Kharono Femi, S.1, Treasurer, Sure Start-Tororo Girls’ School
“I learnt that girls have the power to speak and fight for their rights and push to the finish to become great leaders. I learnt that we as girls are all leaders and we just need to find our inner courage to show that we are indeed leaders.”
Martha Aluko, S.2, Secretary, Sure Start- Tororo Girls’ School
“I had heard so much about gender equality but I had no idea of how to enforce it in society. But when I joined Sure Start, I got the opportunity to be educated about gender equality. I learnt not to let anyone to step on me saying that I am merely a girl and nothing more.”
Mari Edith, S.2, President, Sure Start-Rainer High School
“I have leant that to be a leader you must be an example. That is to say, you should have good manners because if the way you act is not good even the people you lead will not listen to whatever you tell them. I have also learnt to know peoples’ needs and feelings, the challenges they face, and to find solutions to them. For example some people in my village have food but they don’t know how to keep it, so I taught them about food storage.”
Nyadoi Alice S.2, Vice President, Sure Start-Tororo Girls’ School
“Leadership is all about being confident, considerate, a good decision maker, and faithful. Leadership does not matter of what gender you are. If a boy can rule Uganda, even a girl can do it. Women should not give it up these positions for men.”
Nalumansi Monica, S.1, Bukedi S.S.
“Sure Start has taught me to believe that girls should be given equal opportunities to lead. In my village, Phoebe Otala who is a woman, is running to be Member of Parliament. So as a girl, I know that I also have opportunities to lead.”