As the world prepares for the Summer Olympic Games in London this month and the National Olympic Team of Malawi is now in the UK to do its final preparations, I started thinking about the impact that sports has had on the communities that Join My Village supports. With two of the eight Malawian Olympic athletes being female, could we see more of this in the future?
As the Olympic games show, whether one is in the more developed world or the other way around, the fact is – we all need sports despite potential barriers like culture and social status. It is easy to assume that sport, whatever kind it might be, is identical across the world but there are some psychological values to sports depending on one’s culture and exposure, if you may allow me to say so. For instance, in a rural set up like some of the places where Join My Village is working in Kasungu, it is a social taboo to see a girl playing soccer among a group of boys. Likewise, a boy is considered useless when found with a group of girls playing netball. With this strict social standard, it means you would only expect soccer to be played by boys whilst girls refresh themselves with netball.
To show how deep this cultural norm is, a student at Makanda primary school in Kasungu district gave me one of the crazy answers I didn’t expect during my visit. The boy told me that sports is for boys to pass the time while girls do the cooking back home. Crazy answer of course but this also alerted me to the fact that culture and environment might have prompted this young boy to think this way.
Culture has brought a big gap where girls and boys look at each other as different people who cannot commonly share a playing ground. They are restricted to each other because culture makes one group think sports is not part of their lives.
But we can change that.
Since Join My Village brought sports for social change to primary schools in Kasungu, a lot of change in the attitudes of the students has been seen. Girls can play soccer and boys can play netball. They can play fish-fish games together and race in a competition despite their gender differences. It is without doubt that one day we will have a girl’s football team in schools, right from primary school in rural Kasungu.
As the world turns to London this summer, I will keep watching our primary schools and will share the changes I see with you because I know that sports has broken the gap between boys and girls. Sport not only helps these girls and boys to be physically fit but also increases their thinking capacity. It brings confidence in them and helps in decision making. And so, at Join My village we feel giving opportunities to both boys and girls to participate in sports is one way of promoting equality among our primary schools’ students and the community at large.
And if you ask me about what sport I enjoy most, well, take me to a football (or soccer in the US) ground and I will show you wonders! And give a cheer for our Olympic Team from Malawi! Maybe some of our Join My Village students will be future Olympians themselves!