football as a means of communication
“Sport brings people together, it encourages creativity and also attracts positive energy. It breaks deadlocks and develops natural talents and skills,” said Ocaka, a 17-year-old youth leader, from Unyama village.
Sport does more than this – it draws vulnerable young people to programmes where they can receive critical information and services. This is particularly important in the Unyama community of Gulu, where many people lack access to health services and information.
The main issue, many youth in the community say, is that it is difficult to access the health system. Some women, for example, even resort to giving birth at home rather than going to health facilities. For the young people, there is lack of information on the best means of accessing healthcare.
The Karin Medical Centre combines sport and information by working with a local football club in the community to offer information sessions and workshops on a variety of topics, including how to access health services, as well as sexual and reproductive health. For the young girls that are not able to continue with their education due to early pregnancy, the football club encourages them to seek proper health care specifically targeting them and their unborn child.
A door to engagement
Football attracts young people. And these activities offer their own benefits, such as promoting health and social unity. The right to play is even recognized in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most widely ratified human rights treaty in the world.
“The activities that I participate in during the youth sessions boost my self-confidence and perseverance and introduce me to new friends,” Ocaka told the team from Karin Medical Centre.
Karin Medical Centre is using sports as an entry point for spreading critical messages. During their sports sessions, the health team conducts information sessions that offer accurate, non-judgmental information on sexual and reproductive health issues.
Sport can also teach mutual respect, collaboration and conflict resolution – lessons that fit neatly into messages about human rights and peace building.
“It teaches the values of teamwork, fairness, discipline, respect for the opponent and the rules of the game, which can be translated into our everyday lives,” said Moses, the Laboratory Technician at the Karin Medical Staff.
Every month, the Karin team works with the young footballers to reach out to more youth in the community. So far over 300 youth have been engaged in this network.
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