Power of football in building resilience of internally displaced adolescent girls
Sports is the only positive outlet for these adolescent girls to help them cope with the dramatic changes that happened since their lives were upended by the crisis.
On 15 April 2023, an armed conflict that began, with the fighting concentrated around the capital city of Khartoum, Darfur, and the Kordofan States of Sudan. The conflict has displaced over 3 million people internally within Sudan but also in the neighboring countries such as Egypt, Chad, Ethiopia, and other countries.
White Nile is among the states that welcomed over 4,000 families, but the numbers could be significantly higher according to the local authorities. Most of the displaced families found refuge with their extended relatives. Others, with some savings, were able to rent accommodation in the cities. The impoverished families without significant social capital and savings have been temporarily accommodated in public facilities such as schools and university dormitories.
Al Gjoz Internally Displaced Population (IDP) gathering site is in Kosti's El Imam El Mahdi University student dormitories. The site hosts 127 families, mostly displaced from Khartoum. Ekbal Osman, 13 years old, and Fatma Osman, 17, are two sisters who arrived at this gathering site in June together with their parents and four siblings. Both sisters are passionate about sports and football since their childhood. Back home, they were active members of Al Jeal Youth Club and played in the Gebel Aulia school’s all girls football team for several years.
At the gathering site with the support of UNICEF and its partner, they have formed a girls' sports club. UNICEF provided recreational kits that contained essential sports items such as a football, volleyball net, skipping ropes, and others. The club was also provided with blue and red identification uniforms to allow them to form two teams for the regular football competitions.
At least 24 adolescent girls are training daily on a dedicated football pitch located within the premises of the gathering site. Most of the time, Ekbal leads the training that includes stretching, cardio, and specific exercises to help boost the girls’ confidence during the football matches.
There are hardly any educational activities that adolescent girls can do in the gathering sites. The accommodation space is small, mainly occupied by beds for the family. Regular electricity power cuts limit any activities in the evening. Most of the time, the girls are busy helping their mothers fetch water, clean the rooms, wash the cloths, cook, and look after the younger children.
Perhaps, sports is the only positive outlet for these adolescent girls to help them cope with the dramatic changes that happened since their lives were upended by the crisis. The sports activities are also uniting the girls in a collective effort to better deal with anxiety, depression, and the fear of the unknown.
"When I graduate from school, I want to be a doctor,' said Fatima. "However, I always will dedicate time for football."