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President of Kenya Launches Campaign to Address HIV-Related Stigma
The president of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, launched a new HIV-related stigma campaign at State House, in Nairobi, in order to raise awareness and mobilize young people to be HIV tested, treated and cared for in case of a positive diagnosis.

The national initiative called “Kick out HIV stigma” occurs during the Kenyan Maisha County Football League. The Maisha County Football League is a nationwide 30-week project that aims to diminish HIV infections among young people by using the power of sports in order to terminate HIV.

HIV is considered to be the most crucial and severe health threat dominating people in Kenya. Specifically, it is estimated that during 2015, there have been 35,776 HIV infections and 3,853 deaths among young people aged 15 to 24.

Stigma that is related to HIV remains one of the most vital barriers and concerns for young people who are diagnosed. The HIV-related stigma campaign is a collaboration among the Football Kenya Federation, the government, the U.N., the civil society and finally the Kuza Biashara, a company that focuses on innovative digital technology.

The campaign’s strategy focuses on developing 1,426 football matches in which young people participate from 47 countries and 200,000 people will be worldwide reached every week. By the end of the program, on Dec. 1, the Maisha County League Awards will arise in which both regional and international football winners will be announced by Kenya’s president as part of a celebration of the World AIDS Day.

Eliza Karampetian-Nikotian

Photo: Flickr

Homeless world cupIn 2001, Mel Young created the Homeless World Cup as a way to celebrate individuals from around the globe who have overcome poverty. Young has dedicated his life to fighting homelessness in his homeland of Scotland and the world beyond.

He summarizes his goals for the event: “…we hope to educate the public on the homelessness crisis, with the aim of increasing funding, volunteering, optimism and gestures of goodwill- creating impact and big change”.

The Homeless World Cup is comprised of both men’s and women’s amateur teams from around the world. Unlike the FIFA World Cup, the Homeless World Cup is based on Street Soccer, which uses fewer players and shorter time periods.

The organization covers food and accommodation costs for the players, so even after teams are knocked out of the tournament they are still welcome to spectate and enjoy the rest of the event.

For many players, the Homeless World Cup serves as an escape from the struggles of everyday life as well as a chance to travel to another part of the world. Young believes players are empowered by the dedication, responsibility, and teamwork involved in the game. He also believes that playing sports is a great way to improve both physical and mental health.

The event also works to combat the uncomfortable divide that often separate the homeless and non-homeless communities. By making homeless individuals the stars of the event, typically negative stereotypes surrounding homelessness may shift into a more positive light.

Aside from honing their football skills, players gain valuable skills which can be applied to life outside of the game. The Homelessness World Cup has helped past players overcome addiction, boost self-esteem, and improve their resumes.

Homeless World Cup participants typically retire from football after the Cup, as individuals are only permitted to play once. The hope is that players will have jobs and homes lined up after the event and will no longer be considered homeless. The Homeless World Cup is meant to be a celebration for those who have overcome obstacles and hardships and are ready to enter a new chapter in their lives.

In the words of The Huffington Post’s Kim Samuels, “we have a long way to go to conquer homelessness and the isolation that so often accompanies it. But every goal at the Homeless World Cup brings us a little closer to achieving that larger goal of ending homelessness and fostering inclusion”.

The 2016 Homeless World Cup will be held in Glasgow on July 10–16.

Carrie Robinson

Photo: BBC

How Yuwa Empowers Girls in India Through Football-TBP
India currently has the highest number of child brides on the planet, with 47 percent of girls married before they turn 18. The practice is more common in rural areas. In some states, the number reaches 69 percent. The rate of marriages is increasing for girls between the ages of 15 and 18.

There are many factors that account for this high number of child brides. Oppressive gender roles in India’s patriarchal society make it difficult for girls to pursue other options. They are typically expected to be mothers and care for the entire household. Girls often receive little schooling and have lower rates of literacy. It can be difficult for them to find work and become financially independent, so they have no choice but to marry young and depend on their husband while being burdened with domestic responsibilities. Families may also push girls to get married young out of concern for their safety and “honor.”

Child brides face risks to their mental, physical, and emotional health. Since many become pregnant at a young age, they are more likely to die in childbirth. They also have a greater chance of contracting HIV. They suffer more domestic violence: Indian child brides are twice as likely to be abused than girls who marry after 18. They also face higher rates of sexual abuse, and often exhibit symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder such as hopelessness and depression.

The Yuwa organization, an NGO based in the state of Jharkhand, is dedicated to using football (soccer) as a means to promote social development and discourage child marriage. Citizens of Jharkhand struggle with poverty and illiteracy, and it is a dangerous place for young women to grow up. Yuwa was founded in 2009, and since the program began, it has had 600 members. Currently, 250 girls participate in the program, with 150 practicing on a daily basis.

Through Yuwa, girls can organize new football teams or join an already existing team. Players collectively choose a team captain, who is responsible for tracking attendance. If a girl suddenly drops out or shows up less and less, her teammates can contact her to help her through whatever is keeping her from practice.

Yuwa’s program goes beyond football. They also work to educate girls so they can strive for a future beyond child marriage. Girls can attend their academic bridge program, which provides classes in math, science, and English, and computers. They also provide summer school and personal tutoring, and assist with transferring girls to better schools. Furthermore, Yuwa holds hour-long weekly workshops that focus on teaching life skills. These workshops are run by local female staff or other Yuwa girls, and they cover topics such as health, gender, gender-based violence, sexuality, self-esteem, and basic finances.

Yuwa’s primary objective is to inspire girls to take their futures into their own hands so they can fight child marriage, illiteracy, and human trafficking. Girls and their coaches can meet with their families to discuss options beyond marriage. Although some parents are not understanding at first, and want their daughters to follow the conventional path, many change their minds and begin to push for better futures for their daughters.

The Yuwa girls have seen success on and off the field. In 2013, a Yuwa team placed 4th in an under-14 tournament in Spain, and in 2014, they were invited to Schwan’s USA cup. Although football is not enough to undo all of the inequalities that Indian women struggle with on a daily basis, Yuwa’s girls are helping change attitudes and inspire girls to strive for new opportunities.

– Jane Harkness

Sources: Foundation for Sustainable Development, Girls Not Brides, The Guardian, International Center for Research on Women, Yuwa
Photo: Yuwa

soccer_stars
As John Oliver so eloquently stated, for any fanatical fan, soccer (or football) is not just a sport; it’s a religion, and the players are gods. They are symbols of faith and inspiration. They are the key holders of success, the gatekeepers of heaven. But unlike the biblical God, a glorified, elusive entity, these gods started from humble beginnings. It was indeed their supernatural gift that elevated them to deity. Here are five soccer “gods” that ascended to become soccer stars despite impoverished roots.

Rivaldo

Growing up in the northeast port town of Recife, one of Brazil’s most poverty-ridden slums, Rivaldo endured the hardship that comes with poverty. Due to malnourishment, he lost several teeth and was left bow-legged. His passion for football was his vehicle for prevailing through adversity. When he was 16 he signed his first professional contract with Paulistano and from then on, he rose to stardom. He competed in the World Cup in 1998 and 2002, helping Brazil reach the final round both years.

Pelé

One of the greatest legends of the game, Pelé too was raised in the unforgiving streets of Brazil. With not enough money to invest in his own soccer ball, he improvised by using a sock stuffed with newspaper or a grapefruit. Talent and grit were the ingredients for his successes. Throughout his career, he was elected “Athlete of the Century” by the International Olympic Committee and in 1999 was voted “Player of the Century.” Since his retirement, he has been a worldwide advocate for the promotion of soccer as a vehicle for change in developing countries.

Diego Maradona

Raised in the shantytown of Villa Fiorito, Argentina, Maradona shared one bedroom with all seven of his siblings. He did not receive any formal education; football was his only hope. In his astounding career, he played in four FIFA World Cups, was recognized for his “Goal of the Century” and was crowned FIFA “Player of the Century.”

Salomon Kalou

A current member of the Cote d’Ivoire national team, Kalou was raised in a nation in which 42.7 percent of citizens live below the poverty line. He rose to international prominence for his exceptional ability on the soccer field. Aside from serving as a figurehead of faith, he has taken an active role in inspiring his people and alleviating poverty. In 2010, he established the Kalou Foundation, which provides social services and recreation facilities for vulnerable populations.

Samuel Eto’o

Though he lived better than many in a country rampant with poverty, Eto’o began his career in Cameroon as a “street footballer.” He has since risen to be the highest paid player in the world, earning $17 million per year. His well-earned money goes toward his foundation, which funds development work in Africa.
These soccer stars have utilized their high profiles to inspire and ignite change. The good thing about the religion of soccer is that there is no hierarchy; there is no secret attribute that all of the gods possess. The most inspiring part of it all could in fact be the democratic nature of the sport. You do not even need a pair of shoes to pick up the game, or even a ball. You never know; bare feet and a ripe grapefruit could get you to big places.

 — Samantha Scheetz

Sources: BBC, Bread for the World, Sportskeeda, AA Registry
Photo:Next Pulse Sports

UNICEF_football
Sports are being used all over the world to promote gender equality, public health and the empowerment of social outcasts.

In patriarchal societies sports and games are being used to empower young girls and encourage fair play regardless of gender, leveling the playing field, as it were.

But gender is just one of many social barriers that sports are used to break. Football (soccer) in particular is popular for reinitiating orphans, former child soldiers or sex slaves, refugees, children with disabilities and children of varying races into communities.

In 2003 a UN task-force announced the birth of Sport for Development and Peace (S4D) Towards Achieving the Millennium Development Goals, officially making sports a tool for fighting world hunger, poverty, disease and discrimination.

S4D disperses its funding among organizations that promote physical activity as a right among children and use its exertion to demonstrate equality.

UNICEF holds sport festivals where it educates children and families about hygiene, the importance of vaccinations and HIV/AIDS prevention.

Grassroot Soccer (GRS), based in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, launched an HIV/AIDS Education Program that encourages children to talk openly about HIV/AIDS and builds a community of peers who will bring what they learn back to their families.

In addition to encouraging peaceful resolution and fair play, sports can have a way of giving control back to children who’ve had their rights or bodies stolen from them.

Within the parameters of a controlled environment young girls and boys are free to rule and judge for themselves, experience consequences, team-building and the payoffs of hard work.

Regardless of culture, countries all over the world are accepting physical activity as a way to nurture empowerment and collaboration. Victims of human trafficking practice yoga in India to reclaim their bodies and establish inner-stability. Children play basketball in South Africa to overcome racial stereotypes. All-girl football teams in Brazil empower young women to overcome their social inhibitions. After a tough game, coaches in Zimbabwe talk to their teams about practicing safe sex.

The UN is making international sport a priority, and hopes that one day children everywhere will have the space and the right to play.

– Lydia Caswell

Sources: UNICEF, Sport and Dev, Sport and Dev
Photo: What’s On

Street Child World Cup
Three months before the FIFA World Cup takes over Rio, street children from 19 countries will arrive in the city to play in their very own World Cup.

For many of these children, the soccer tournament will be a first opportunity for them to be seen, heard, and to demonstrate their skills. The estimated 100 million children who live and work in the streets of the world’s cities are overlooked and ignored at best- abused, exploited and trafficked at worst. They rarely receive protection from police or judicial systems, and are denied access to any social services that require school attendance or a permanent address.

The Street Child World Cup (SCWC) was started by the Amos Trust, a small London-based human rights organization, as an effort to use the popular sport to provide a platform for street children to be heard, to change their public perception, and to help realize their rights. The inaugural tournament involved eight teams and was played ahead of the 2010 World Cup in Durban, South Africa.

“When people see us by the streets, they say that we are the street boys,” said Andile, a participant in the first SCWC tournament, according to the organization’s website. “But when they see us playing soccer, they say that we are not the street boys. They say that we are people like them. They are people like us.”

The organization has grown since its successful first World Cup, and this year will be flying 19 teams from around the world to and from Rio to compete in separate boys’ and girls’ tournaments.

Each national team is organized by a local street child NGO partnering with SCWC that supports kids before, during and after the tournament. These groups ensure that the children receive the IDs, passports and permission necessary for participation. In addition to impacting the lives of the children who participate in the tournament, SCWC seeks to use the event to raise awareness and visibility of these partner organizations and their causes.

The tournament and corresponding events will last for ten days, from March 27 through April 7. Each team will be paired with a different local school when they arrive in Brazil to participate in intercultural activities, soccer coaching and art workshops in which they will create works that depict their experiences and dreams to be displayed publicly in the city.

The 2010 tournament and resulting media coverage of the issues made great strides in transforming public perceptions of street children in South Africa and helped end police “round ups” of street children prior to international visits, according to Umthombo, SCWC’s partner organization in the area.

Children also participated in a conference to form the Durban Declaration, sharing their experiences and thoughts on key themes of home, protection from violence and access to education. The declaration was presented to the UN Committee on Human Rights along with the governments of participating countries.

This year, Street Child World Cup will be supporting Brazilian organization O Pequeno Nazareno and their campaign for a national response to street child issues in Brazil. The organization is calling on the Brazilian government to institute the first ever public policy in the world on street children.

Although policies that address child labor and abuse already exist, there is nothing in place to address the specific needs of street children. The proposal O Pequeno Nazareno and SCWC will bring to the Brazilian government includes measures on education, family life and shelters, and calls for the creation of a national data bank of street children and regulation of the social educator profession. If passed, this policy could pave the way for others like it all around the world.

To learn more visit Street Child World Cup. Donate today to support street children and their right to live safe, healthy, and happy lives.

– Sarah Morrison

Sources: Ahran Online, Jakarta Post, Street Child World Cup
Photo: WOCOZOME

How the 2022 World Cup Could Help Alleviate Poverty
Qatar will be hosting the World Cup in 2022 which creates the problem of dealing with the high climate experienced by the region. Temperatures in Qatar reach roughly 104 Fahrenheit and while the World Cup has relatively little effect of many impoverished nations the developments made to assist in cooling the stadium could be implemented throughout the Middle East.

Nasser Al-Khelaifi, a former professional tennis player and current sports businessman, is acting as the organizing committee’s director of communications and marketing. The stadium has already had a cooling system installed which has earned it the title of being the first and only cooled stadium in the world. However, the main element of the 2022 World Cup that could help alleviate poverty is the method in which they power the cooling system.

Al-Khelaifi is working with companies in Germany to develop a more resilient solar power grid to help power the stadium. Germany has thus far been leading the way in solar power technology and should prove useful in developing a new technology to deal with the conditions of harvesting power in the desert. The main problems in harvesting solar energy in the desert are keeping the grids clean enough to run efficiently.

By working to develop grids more resistant to the harsh environment of the desert, Al-Khelaifi could be producing a useful technology to assist in powering the impoverished communities which lie in some of the world’s harshest environment.

When the new solar power grids are not using the energy gathered by the grids for the World Cup in 2022, it will be put toward powering the neighboring communities.

– Pete Grapentien

Source: Arab Times
Photo: Ahram Online

It’s always encouraging when those who have so much, give to those who have so little. David Beckham, an international celebrity and professional footballer, made a unique announcement upon signing with a new football league. He will give all of his salary to charity.

Beckham recently left the LA Galaxy team and has now signed a five-month contract with France’s Paris St. Germain (PSG) league. One of the special conditions that he and the team decided on was that all his earnings would go to a local charity in Paris, helping children. He has said the choice has made him very excited and proud to make the move to France, and it is one of the reasons he chose PSG, as many different teams were trying to sign him. No details have been given to the exact dollar amount, but Beckham said it would be a “huge sum.”

Every time an example is given of the super wealthy giving away money to charity, it gives precedent and pressure to all others in the same unique position, to take action and make real change in the world.

– Mary Purcell

Source: Sky News
Video: You Tube