1/11-2018Girls in Somaliland are claiming their rights to play street sports

The first GAME Playmaker Camps, enabling young people of Somaliland to run street sports for children in their neighborhood have taken place. Now the young role models are making full use of their GAME Playmaker education by running weekly training sessions. After one year both Playmaker Camps and weekly trainings have seen a high participation of young women and girls.

The Danish based NGO GAME has since January 2018 been active in Somaliland. Throughout 2018 GAME’s Playmaker Camps and weekly trainings have been met with great interest in the local communities of Somaliland’s capital Hargeisa.

While the project started with some challenging months of finding accessible sports facilities, Somaliland children and youth are now playing street sports at GAME Zones in Hargeisa. This first year has served as a pilot and GAME’s East Africa Representative Said A. Hussein is very happy with the results – especially the high participation of young women and girls.

“We have achieved our target of reaching 550 children and youth and in August we reached a thousand kids! This overwhelming interest is very positive and it’s definitely something that should be developed further,” he says.

Girls are claiming their right to play
One of the more unexpected success stories of GAME Somaliland has been its ability to attract girls and women. This means that the ambitious goal of 40% girls’ participation has been met with a 40% rate for Playmakers and 42% for Players.

“It has proven a greater success to engage girls than expected because the young women are self-organized and passionate about their right to play,” Said A. Hussein explains.

This taps into a general movement happening in Hargeisa where especially the youth and local and international NGO’s ascribe great importance to gender equality. Increased girl’s participation is also high on the agenda for all other GAME projects. Said A. Hussein elaborates that while many elements of the GAME concept are the same in Denmark and Somaliland, it is important to understand and respect the local context.

To accommodate religious beliefs girls and boys do not practice together in the weekly practices, however the Playmaker Camps are mixed. The Playmaker Camps have therefore been a great platform for the youth to discuss gender equality, and the weekly trainings have provided a space for the youth to implement their ideas.

Being a volunteer in Somaliland is not obvious
Gender is not the only significant difference between Somaliland and Denmark, where the GAME model was born.

“It is self-explanatory that volunteering is not the first priority for these young men and women. The majority of youth in Somaliland are unemployed and survival is the main priority,” Said A. Hussein explains.

The Somaliland youth lacks many of the basic necessities that Danish youth would take for granted such as tickets to the bus, Internet on their phones, appropriate shoes and public access to sports. However, while the local context in Denmark and Somaliland is very different, and Danish and Somaliland Playmakers may need different things, it has not been an issue recruiting volunteers:

“The youth in Somaliland are constantly looking for ways to improve themselves and their employability and they are hungry to learn new skills and capabilities,” he says.

One of these Playmakers is the 23-year-old woman Tasnim Ali Shagale, who has played basketball her whole life, but through GAME has found a new way to practice her love for sports.

“The GAME-practice has given me a new environment to connect with a great variety of people,” she says.

Said A. Hussein elaborates that the Playmakers have quickly realized that it is not only about playing football or basketball, but it’s about being a role model for the children in your local community.

Innovative Partnerships
To increase impact and help the Playmakers grow even more, GAME Somaliland will begin a partnership with Save the Children in Somaliland. With their expertise, GAME Somaliland will improve the Playmaker education and train 30 Playmakers in conflict resolution, child protection, gender equality, psychological support and sexual-gender-based-violence (SGBV).

The Playmakers will also be engaged in youth resilience activities and through Save the Children funding the Playmakers will be able to conduct even more weekly practices for the children and adolescents in the local communities. Said A. Hussein comments on the partnership and explains:

“GAME has the incredible capability to join children and youth through sports and become a platform where they can meet with other actors such as Save the Children to receive vocational training and better themselves.”

GAME’s activities in Somaliland are implemented with the local partner Somaliland National Youth Organisation (SONYO) and are supported by CISU (Civil Society in Development). From now on, the hard work continues and the local staff in Hargeisa will shortly begin the ‘Save the Children partnership project’ as well as prepare for GAME Finals to be held within a few months.