The power of African football harnessed for children
Dakar, Senegal, 7 January 2010 - Fans of African football around the world will be enjoying the kick of the Cup of Nations in Angola this month.
On show will be some of the most talented players in the world, many of whom are from West Africa and who now play in European leagues.
The power of the sport to motivate children and transform lives is recognised by UNICEF. In three West African countries funding from Football Federation Australia has been put to work to set new agendas, challenge gender stereotypes and build bridges.
Côte d’Ivoire experienced four years of civil war. The conflict disrupted traditional protection mechanisms for children and resulted in increased exposure of women and girls exposure to sexual violence.
A pilot project in three locations for orphans and other vulnerable children aims to use football to help girls and boys understand each other better while establishing codes of conduct and respect. (see story)
In Guinea Equatorial, which will be joint host of the African Cup of Nations in 2012, a strategy has been adopted by the government, UNICEF and other partners that use sport and football to reduce violence against children.
Buoyed by the success of the women’s squad in the 2008 Female African Nations Cup, the initiative utilizes coaches and young people as trainers and messengers of a culture of tolerance citizenship, dialogue and peace.
For the event itself money from Football Australia is being used in Angola to promote HIV and AIDS prevention messages across the country, with a particular focus on the venues themselves, and to train hotel staff, police and others about the need to be vigilante to help prevent child trafficking and sexual exploitation. (see story).
The English Premier League and Super Eagles star Nwankwo Kanu was renewed as a UNICEF ambassador in Nigeria last year. His aim is to use his influence and the power of football to save lives.
“Working with UNICEF, I have seen the dire circumstances that children in Nigeria face every day. I see children who have been disabled and heard of others who have died because they weren’t immunized. Thousands of little children die every year from malaria, and we know that sleeping under bed nets every night prevents it,” he said.
“We have to help young people avoid HIV infection—and all kids need to secure their future by going to school. There is so much to do!”
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