Women and girls participation in sports promotes community cohesion in Northeast Nigeria
October 9, 2022
Sports and recreational activities in Malkohi, Adamawa are helping the community to overcome their differences and live peacefully together. Located in Yola South, Adamawa State, Malkohi is home to thousands of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from various parts of Northeast Nigeria who have been displaced by the decade long insurgency conflict. With the changes in the conflict dynamics and efforts on reconciliation and reintegration, the views of the community members are equally changing. Members of the community have made a collective choice to support each other to overcome the challenges of the conflict and its impact on their lives. As such the community is seeking and exploring ways to strengthen peaceful co-existence among themselves.
UNDP through the support for reconciliation and reintegration project is utilizing the “Sport for Peace” initiative to champion social cohesion in Northeast Nigeria particularly in conflict affected communities like Malkohi. Sports has proven to provide an important outlet to overcome societal difference and strengthen relations across different societal structures. Sports in communities such as Malkohi is restricted and seen as an activity for only men or boys. Like men, women are encouraged and supported to participate in sport activities to promote social cohesion and healing from trauma induced by the long-standing conflict.
Women and girls in Malkohi when presented with options on the sports they would like to engage in, most of them picked an interest in “volleyball”, paving way for the first ever female volleyball team in the community. Team members consisting of IDP’s, and host community members are witnessing positive progress on community engagement resulting in the promotion of peace, solidarity, and respect for each other.
Haruna Christina, the volleyball coach shared her experience when the game was first introduced to the community members;
"we had a very low turnout when we first introduced sports to the community. Some families warned their female children never to participate or even watch. According to them, sports are mostly a male thing. The girls themselves were willing and excited to engage but their wardens restricted them".
Despite the challenges, Haruna and her team never stopped to enlighten the community members on the various benefits that sports could provide to the participants. They promoted these benefits to religious and community leaders particularly the rewards of getting girls to engage in sporting activities.
"Eventually our enlightenment on sports in the community paid off, many girls indicated interest and we enrolled them in the teams. They were all excited to participate in the game. We had girls from the host community, the IDP camps and other special interest groups indicating interest. It became another activity that bonded the community apart from religious activities", Haruna said
Bilikisu Ibrahim, 20 years old, is the captain of the volleyball team. Her parents were laid back on the idea of her joining the team, but they came around afterwards. Through the volleyball game, she has been able to bond more with her agemates. Bilikisu Ibrahim, 20 years old, is the captain of the volleyball team. Her parents were laid back on the idea of her joining the team, but they came around afterwards. Through the volleyball game, she has been able to bond more with her agemates.
"I now use it as an avenue to alleviate stress and bond with people in the community both new and old. In addition, we often use this opportunity to strengthen our bonds as friends because team members must trust themselves to play as a team. This is an eye opener for us on the importance of sports, and we wish to participate in other games in the future".
Participants such as Bilikisu are encouraged to share their experience and enlighten their families and friends on the benefits of peace and communal living as it will have a ripple effect on the community development in the long run.
The support for reconciliation and reintegration project is jointly implemented by IOM, UNICEF and UNDP and seeks to support the State Governments of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe to enhance community preparedness for reintegration, reducing rejection and stigmatization and preparing the ground for community-based healing and reconciliation. UNDP implemented components empowers communities, towards achieving sustainable peace by more just, cohesive, and inclusive communities while also addressing some of the conflict’s underlying drivers.
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