TackleAfrica: Football for sexual and reproductive health education

Report

The association has chosen to use football to capture the attention of young people.

In Africa, sexual and reproductive health education is a major challenge in the fight against AIDS (which remains the leading cause of death among adolescents on the continent), sexually transmitted infections, early pregnancy and female genital mutilation. Created in 2002, the British association TackleAfrica works in about ten countries to raise awareness of sexual and reproductive health issues among the youngest, aged 10 to 18. It provides them with the keys and confidence to make informed choices, take charge of their health and change attitudes. Supported by the CHANEL Foundation for the development of its programme in Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso, where women are particularly exposed to early pregnancy and genital mutilation, the association has chosen to use football to capture the attention of young people.

Un équipe de foot d'enfants avec leurs éducateurs

A powerful educational tool

Des enfants dans une école dont l'un écrit sur un cahier

While traditional campaigns and health facilities sometimes find it difficult to involve young people regularly in an education and prevention programme, TackleAfrica has found a strong vector with football. It is very popular and through a coach who is involved in local life and trained by the association, it is an effective way to reach young people by creating a safe space where they feel free to talk about these sensitive issues.

“When you create a group of players, they come every week for a one-hour session for ten weeks,” explains Yianny Ioannou, the association’s Director of Operations and Training. The recurrence and regularity of these sessions helps build trust between the youngsters and the coach. In concrete terms, the coach informs them, makes them aware of their rights and allows them to exchange freely through the game, through exercises integrated into the football session. The programme also gives them access to counselling, screening and contraception services.

The key to success: local partners

Une jeune femme entraineuse discute avec un 4 joueurs de foot

TackleAfrica’s action relies exclusively on partners with local roots: community-based organisations, NGOs, public services…”. In particular, these partners enlighten us on the local issues to be targeted as a priority and they put us in contact with committed volunteers that we train to become coaches,” explains Yianny Ioannou. The coaches are trained both in the practice of football and in the themes they will have to deal with during training sessions. While in Africa football is seen mainly as a male sport, coaches are both men and women.

The aim is to set an example and fight against inequalities by changing behaviour. “It’s very important for young girls but also for boys to have female role models. We sometimes form mixed groups to address these issues. And we train women coaches even to coach groups of boys,” says Yianny Ioannou.

This year, 610 coaches have been trained and more than 12,000 young people have participated in the TackleAfrica programme in about ten countries. And the association will continue to deploy its action, especially in new countries in West Africa.