Since 2009 Ladies Turn has brought the joy of soccer to thousands of girls and women throughout Senegal. With every kick-off, these girls are publicly shattering restrictive beliefs about what women are capable of and where they belong in their society. Many participants have shared with us that through their experience; they had an opportunity to develop valuable leadership skills and relationships outside of the home. Being a part of a team, led by strong women mentors and encouraging, supportive men role models, has fostered an environment of self-respect and confidence among Ladies’ Turn participants. We consider this an essential step in cultivating community change makers. Our activities have incited girls to take responsibility for their future as well as cultivated a desire to work with others to achieve the changes they want to see. We recognize however that this is only the first step in empowering girls to become active voices in their community.
In reality, the majority of the Ladies’ Turn participants lack the tools necessary to express themselves publicly and to showcase their ideas and viewpoints. Faced with a sundry of economic and gender obstacles, girls often leave school at a very early age in Senegal. This is especially relevant among poorer populations where the burden of housework and childcare weighs heavily on the shoulders of young women and the hope for family mobility lies in the hands of young men. Often girls are encouraged to partake in non-scholastic activities, to provide immediate supplementary income, and the value of their education is pushed to the back burner. Our research suggests that this is particularly relevant in the case of women’s soccer. Young girls see soccer as a viable professional promise and means out of poverty. For those demonstrating some talent, they are incited by dreams of making it to the National Team and possibilities of being recruited abroad. They see soccer as an opportunity to carve out an active role within their community and beyond, yet feel that education and soccer are two very different life paths. Consequently, these girls are empowered, but lack the skills to act on this empowerment.
Ladies Turn sees empowerment, leadership and education as interdependent goals. The tools acquired through scholarship are vital to showcasing the leadership skills acquired through girls’ participation in soccer. This is why Ladies’ Turn is turning to education in order to provide a solid foundation for our empowerment through soccer program. For the past few months we have been working on developing the first phase of the initiative "Ladies' Turn l'éducation avant tout" (Ladies Turn, education first). Partnering with nine schools in four different regions of Senegal, we aim to provide school supplies, sports equipment, tutoring and scholarships that cover school expenses for families of girls in need, for participants of Ladies Turn in our partner schools. We will also provide literacy classes for girls and young women participants who have left school and who struggle with literacy in French (the official language of administration in Senegal). Last month we submitted our initiative to the Lyon Foundation in France, and we have just been informed that our project made the final cut. Cross your finger because we will find out on February 21st if our project will be financed this year. In the mean time we continue to grow our network of partners and supporters.
From all of us at Ladies' Turn, we thank you for being a part of our team and for your continued support as we develop the next phase of our girls empowerment through soccer program!
Nio Far (we are in it together)
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