Impact Nicaraguan Girls Playing Soccer for Change

by Soccer Without Borders
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As we look ahead to an exciting 2016 with new growth and opportunities, please join us in celebrating some of 2015's top moments...moments you have made possible through your support:

Top 5 of 2015:

5. Expansion to La Villa: Our newest program location took shape in early 2015 and has grown leaps and bounds since then, with two new girls' teams now operating weekly in La Villa. This site will increase the number of weekly hours availalbe in 2016, and already had its first participants qualify for secondary school scholarships!

4. Copa De La Paz: While the Women's World Cup in Canada was the year's pinnacle event in women's soccer, SWB Nicaragua continued to build on its own cup: the Peace Cup. Eighteen teams from 4 Nicaraguan cities came together for the largest annual community girls' soccer tournament in the country. 

3. National Team Support: For the first time since 2009, a member of the SWB family was selected for a Nicaraguan National Team! Valeria, one of our goalkeepers, made the final roster of the U-17 national team and traveled to Guatemala to represent her country. In advance of the tournament, a select team of SWB players competed against the U-17 national team in a friendly match to help their preparations. We are thrilled to continue to work with the Federation to support the growth of girls and women's soccer across the country.

2. Education Program Continued Expansion: We announced early in the year that 86% of our participants advanced from one grade to the next from 2014 to 2015. While only 56% of students who enter primary school even reach 6th grade, at FSF our girls are working hard to not only finish primary, but advance through secondary school and beyond. In 2015, the education program continued to expand its support with 28 scholarship recipients, 7 new computers, hundreds of school supplies distributed, a leadership council formed, and multiple future-focused workshops throughout the year. We are looking forward to expanding the program further in 2016 with the addition of an "ultimo año" workshop series, computing classes, and preparations for university scholarships.

1. Nicaraguan Co-Directors Take the Reigns: In January, Cesar Morales and Veronica Balladares became our first-ever Nicaraguan Co-Directors. With a combined 11 years of experience with SWB, they certainly put their stamp on the program, overcoming new challenges and building new partnerships that lay the foundation for future growth. 

Links:

This week in New York, the UN Summit for Sustainable Development will officially transition from the Millenium Development Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The SDG's mark a huge step forward in the international commitment to achieve gender equality, pushing countries to do more than they've ever done before not just for women, but also an explicit mandate to empower girls

While conversations in New York represent equality efforts at the highest level, at Soccer Without Borders Nicaragua we are a part of this effort every day. Our program expands the realm of possibility for girls, transforming what is viewed as a male space into one where girls hold equal respect and value. 

Earlier this week, in celebration of the International Day of Peace, SWB Nicaragua held its annual "Copa de la Paz" (Peace Cup). The tournament redesigns a typical competition to reward not only soccer outcomes, but also promote community-building, conflict resolution, and healthy, peaceful competition. It has grown to become our biggest event of the year, with girls from Managua, Matagalpa, Tipitapa, and all over Granada participating. To a bystander from a country where girls' sport participation is common, it might look like any other tournament: teams cheering, parents clapping, coaches directing, and goals being scored. Its existence, though, has been years in the making. To get here, we've addressed barriers to access, earned parent buy-in, advocated for equal facility space, challenged assumptions about girls' ability as athletes, and- perhaps most importantly- invested in building the confidence of the girls themselves to stand on such a public stage with pride. 

Our International Team Leader Jess Lopez shared her reflections on her first-ever Peace Cup experience (excerpt- read the full reflection here): 

"I’ve been finding it extremely difficult to put the magic of the Copa de la Paz– the only all girls youth soccer tournament in Nicaragua– into words....The girls dream of this day year round, and the emotion and excitement of the event is something that they will surely hang onto until the seventh edition in 2016. Due to the fact that there are no girls leagues here, these are some of the girls’ only “meaningful” games of the season. I don’t think I was fully aware of the significance of the event, nor of the weight of this fact, until I saw Rossmary, one of the members of my team, score a goal in the closing minutes of the final to put Fenix ahead 1-0. She ran over to her teammates– on the verge of shedding a thousand tears of joy and pure elation– and gave them the most genuine, heartfelt hugs I’ve ever seen. All of those days of practicing under the scorching sun were worth it to see her beaming smile.

All 18 teams walked away from the Peace Cup sharing the hopefulness that comes from playing for change and promoting peace through sport and friendship. Not only this, they left with the satisfaction that they had effected a positive change in their local community; seeing the droves of people that came out to support them and watch girls soccer– including players from the local men’s league who provided additional help as referees– solidified the sentiment that girls can do much more than household chores, cleaning, cooking, upholding traditional roles. Each and every one of these incredible young women is a trailblazer for her efforts to break these molds and go beyond societal norms that have been set in stone for decades.

Read the full reflection here!

Links:

TEAM Camp circle
TEAM Camp circle

We are ecstatic to share that two photos from our project page have been chosen as finalists for the Global Giving Photo Contest!

Please take 10 seconds to vote for our photos (one and two) and HUGE thanks to Kristin Gladney Photography for donating her time to the program to take these great shots!

The winning photo means $1,000 for this project, which we will use to expand opportunities for more girls to play on their first-ever team and access secondary school scholarships. Last year, we created the youngest organized team in the country, Las Princesas, girls ages 7-9, which now has more than 30 registered participants. This year, we established a new teams in one of the most under-resourced neighborhoods in Granada, La Villa. We aim to continue this growth until all girls in Granada and beyond have equal access to educational and recreational opportunities. Thank you for your support!

Vision & Collaboration.
Vision & Collaboration.

Links:

Hassell with her team
Hassell with her team

The last six weeks have hurdled women's soccer into the spotlight in a big way. Messages of support and enthusiasm have been juxtaposed with the sinking feelings of disappointment in media coverage and an inability to convert widespread interest into revenue streams that will close the wage and opportunity gaps.

For Soccer Without Borders, this spotlight has created a platform to share our stories and highlight the obstacles that stand in the way of girls' inclusion in sport and opportunities at large. One of those opportunities was to be a part of the "Teach Her" series from Public Radio International, which released a series of stories from women leaders in sport around the world. Below is a story from Hassell Chavez, one of our amazing coaches, on the role of educational attainment in the program:

"Education is one of the most important pillars and foundations for the development of women in Nicaragua. Access to it has allowed women and girls more opportunities in the farming, science, politics, sports and arts fields. Getting an education allows Nicaraguan women to break through into careers that are traditionally dominated by men. Thanks to this, women are no longer seen only as the housewives that Nicaragua's traditionally machista society expects them to be. Education allows women to empower themselves and have a stake and voice in society. These days, Nicaraguan women are seen as equal to men, and are afforded the same opportunities as men.

As a soccer coach and facilitator for the Soccer Without Borders education program for girls, I've noticed a significant increase in our players attaining scholarships. The girls have grown to understand the importance of studying for their development. They now know that education is the tool that they need to reach their future professional goals as empowered women who know that education is the basis for success. The girls of Soccer Without Borders know to take advantage of opportunities and continue to improve their scholastic performance. The women of Nicaragua are on track to lead our country to a brighter future."

Read the full story on PRI at the link below and thank you for your support of Soccer Without Borders Nicaragua!

 

Links:

Two generations of Nicaraguan women took their seats in the Fútbol Sin Fronteras (FSF- Soccer Without Borders) activity center Tres Pisos. Mothers and daughters sat facing new pink and light-blue backpacks filled with materials necessary for a successful year of studying: school uniforms, shoes, notebooks, rulers, and pencils. Greeted by new co-directors Cesar and Veronica, FSF had chosen their 28 daughters as recipients of these backpacks as well as free tuition for a year of studying at any secondary school in Granada.

Now in its second year, the FSF Education Program has advanced the academic potential of Nicaraguan girls by providing secondary school tuition scholarships and school materials to 28 girls for the 2015 school year, including 12 returning recipients. Doubling the number of recipients in a single year would not have been possible without generous support from the Tom Pope Memorial Fund and the Girls' Rights Project. Rather than have participants compete with one another for slots, all who meet the FSF program participation and application requirements can earn a scholarship. This serves as incredible inspiration for our participants and families, and no doubt will lead to continued growth.

As you know, girls in Nicaragua face a tremendous set of educational challenges: only 55.8 percent of students who enter primary school will reach 6th grade[1], the final year of primary school. The trend continues downward in secondary school, though accurate data is incredibly hard to find. The barriers to completing school are formidable: responsibility for younger siblings and other household responsibilities, lack of financial resources, lack of parent support, and poor health care/frequent absenteeism among others, often prevent girls from pursuing and completing secondary school. In an effort to interrupt this cycle, we provide school uniforms and materials, matriculation and other school fees, daily tutoring services, and regular meetings with academic counselors to scholarship recipients.  Nevertheless, girls who do not qualify for scholarships also receive individual support – homework hour with academic advisors and tutors, access to computers for homework help, and the ability to exchange points earned from attending practice for school uniforms and materials.

As we entered the second year of the education program, we used participation records to observe how many of our girls had repeated a primary or secondary school grade in the 2014 school year (note: our youngest/newest team was not included in the report). The results? 86% of FSF girls completed their school year and passed onto the next grade. 

While the results were positive compared to the norm, we dug deeper, wanting to understand the causes for the 14%. Not surprisingly, our girls who had not advanced academically faced similar obstacles: family instability, behavior issues and subsequent punishment at school, lack of academic motivation, and leaving school to work. While these obstacles are consistent with norms nationwide, we are determined to address and overcome them. We plan to increase the educational role of coaches and advisors, expanding their support to scholarship and non-scholarship participants. Earlier intervention with parents and school directors will ensure that it is never too late to get back on track. 

Thank you so much for following and supporting our efforts to change outcomes for girls in Nicaragua! 

 

[1] (UNICEF, At a Glance: Nicaragua) 

Links:

 

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Organization Information

Soccer Without Borders

Location: Cambridge, MA - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.soccerwithoutborders.org
Project Leader:
Mary McVeigh
Cambridge, MA United States
$39,538 raised of $50,000 goal
 
1,273 donations
$10,463 to go
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