Using sports to build engagement and life skills

3 young girls playing soccer together

Reclaim Childhood, based in Amman, runs a sports program called “Goals for Girls” in cities and towns in Jordan with significant Iraqi and Syrian refugee populations. They recruit young women and girls, ages 8 to 18, from these refugee communities to play with young women and girls from the local communities in Jordan. Their goal is to empower Iraqi and Syrian young refugee women and girls by fostering engagement and critical life skills through sports. Reclaim Childhood has impacted the lives of more than 800 young women and girls since 2008. Engagement in sports offers these young women and girls the unique opportunity to foster critical life skills, such as the ability to work in teams and approach challenges with courage and confidence.

Young women and girls living in the Middle East have few opportunities to play sports. Reclaim Childhood targets those who need it most: Iraqi and Syrian refugees. Given limited resources, fun and education are rarities in the lives of Iraqi and Syrian refugees. Reclaim Childhood gives girls the opportunity to see themselves as real competitors - on and off the field.

Over 800 refugee girls have participated in Reclaim Childhoods' team sports activities of football, volleyball and basketball, where children from refugee communities team up with local female children. Studies have shown the value of sports in fostering critical life skills, such as the ability to work in teams and approach challenges with courage and confidence.[1] The program helps participants develop these skills, and an opportunity to use them to better their own lives and the lives of others. Committed to developing a path toward the future for its beneficiaries, Reclaim Childhood is initiating partnerships to facilitate educational and career opportunities for Iraqi refugee girls and women.

An additional benefit provided by Reclaim Childhood’s sport activities, is the opportunity to build cross-community engagement between refugee and hosting Jordanian communities. Reclaim Childhood seeks to counter the impact of a mass media that too often exacerbates differences between communities, creating political conflict where humanitarian harmony ought to exist. Sport is a language spoken by everyone, which is why it serves as an effective medium to bring seemingly different communities together to find their similarities and build opportunities for engagement.

Reclaim Childhood believes that “sport has the power to instill confidence, hope and ambition in its participants. Team oriented games at all levels provide the psychosocial support necessary to improve self-esteem, strengthen peer relationships and foster leadership. Recent studies show that girls who participate in sports are more likely to participate in society and achieve success off playing field.”[2] This tactic example is from Jordan, but using sports to foster engagement and critical life skills can be applied to a wide range of contexts and target populations.

[1] Report on Sport and Gender: Empowering Girls and Women
[2] Reclaim Childhood Website

Image from Reclaim Childhood website.


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