Sports motivate girls in Hasakeh to pursue their dreams

UNICEF Syria marks the International Day of Sports for Development and Peace

Rasha Alsabbagh and Madlin Chako
06 April 2022
Girl holding a basketball
UNICEF/Syria/2022/Delil Souleiman
Fayrouz, 16, plays basketball during a UNICEF -supported sports event in Hasakeh city, northeast Syria.

“Playing a game gives me great energy. Girls should do as well in sports as they do in school,”

Fayrouz, 16

2 April 2022, Hasakeh, northeast Syria – “When I first started playing basketball, it was mainly for fun and to spend more time with my friends. Then, my passion for the game began to grow. Now, it’s my life! I can’t stop playing,” says Fayrouz, 16, from Hasakeh, northeast Syria.

Fayrouz started playing basketball in 2018. Since then, she has participated in five national female leagues. “I get inspired watching girls and women play sports. I follow their achievements because it makes me believe that I, too, can do it,” she says.

Not only does basketball empower her, it also is a motivation for her to continue her learning. “I reward myself with some basketball practice after I finish studying. It helps me to learn and excel in school.”

Girls playing basketball
UNICEF/Syria/2022/Delil Souleiman
Fayrouz, 16, plays basketball during a UNICEF -supported sports event in Hasakeh city, northeast Syria.

According to Fayrouz, not many women play sports in Syria, but the situation is improving. “There’s more support nowadays for girls to get into sports,” she explains. She finds in the physical activity to be an outlet to relieve stress. “Playing a game gives me great energy. Girls should do as well in sports as they do in school,” adds Fayrouz. She dreams of going professional and playing basketball around the world.

Girl holding a volleyball
UNICEF/Syria/2022/Delil Souleiman
Rama, 20, plays volleyball during a UNICEF -supported sports event in Hasakeh city, northeast Syria.

“I feel mentally well when play volleyball. It’s good for my health and helps me focus on my education,”

Rama, 20

Rama, 20, from Hasakeh, is as passionate about sports as Fayrouz. To hone her skills, she enrolled in the Faculty of Sports Education. “I feel mentally well when play volleyball. It’s good for my health and helps me focus on my education,” says Rama. She has been playing volleyball for six years.

Her father has been her main supporter, helping her follow her passion. “I feel proud for being a female athlete in my community. It encourages other parents to involve their girls in sports.”

Seeing female athletes in Syria miss out on opportunities to participate in leagues or matches because of the conflict made Rama sad. She strongly believes that girls need to participate more in sports. “It’s not merely a physical activity, sports are important for girls’ emotional and psychological health,” she explains.

Girls playing volleyball
UNICEF/Syria/2022/Delil Souleiman
Rama, 20, plays volleyball during a UNICEF -supported sports event in Hasakeh city, northeast Syria.

“I remember the day we provided girls in the national stadium with bikes. Some of them had never ridden one, so they learned how to do that. And at the end of the day, all of them roamed the streets of the area on bikes with much confidence,” says Madlin Chako, Adolescent Development and Participation Officer with UNICEF in Qamishli.

“Unfortunately, girls in local communities here have limited opportunities to practice sports. One rarely sees them playing football or riding a bike in public. But with our partners, we work on engaging them in different activities. It also encourages parents to give them more space to be active,” Madlin adds.

Girl carrying badminton
UNICEF/Syria/2022/Delil Souleiman
Lona, 11, plays badminton during a UNICEF -supported sports event in Hasakeh city, northeast Syria.

The family of Lona, 11, is one of these families. They support her hobby. “I love badminton! My family is of great support. My sister also plays the game,” she says. She practices regularly to become a better player. “I want to encourage all the girls in Syria and the world to play sports. It creates happiness and health.”

Girl playing badminton
UNICEF/Syria/2022/Delil Souleiman
Lona, 11, plays badminton during a UNICEF -supported sports event in Hasakeh city, northeast Syria.

Since September 2021, UNICEF has reached nearly 32,000 adolescents and youth in Hasakeh, northeast Syria, with various skill building activities through adolescent friendly spaces. They include sports for development, life skills training, vocational and technical education, health awareness sessions, entrepreneurship courses, photography, and language courses among others. The activities are funded with support from BMZ via KFW.