“Soccer is exercise and is also fun. When children play soccer they learn discipline and how to get along with others. They may also decide to play other sports and this lead to a more active lifestyle. These are the habits that result in healthier living as the child grows older.” Sonke Gender Justice through the Grassroots Soccer initiative have put the 2010 FIFA World Cup on the blue print as one of the advocacy platforms that can help mobilise, engage and shape young peoples behaviours and attitudes at a tender age on gender based violence, the spread and impact of HIV and AIDS through soccer.
In marking the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children, Sonke participated in the 2010 FIFA World Cup symposium held on the 18th November 2009 where it also unveiled its strategic plan to engage young people through young coaches from schools and communities in order to interrogate on young people’s sexuality, gender-based violence and possible strategies on how to prevent HIV new infections.
The Symposium was jointly hosted by the SANAC Sports and Entertainment Sector – chaired by the office of the Deputy President and in the same capacity the South African government’s representative to FIFA. In recognition of the power which has in most societies, FIFA and Street Ball World established the football for Hope Movement as a key element of their existing strategies alliance to increase the impact of football as a tool for social development, peace and social change.
Donald Ambe, the Sonke-Grassroots Soccer Coordinator said, “The symposium helped us to participate as civil society in drafting a call to FIFA and a plan of action in using opportunities presented by the 2010 World Cup to address issues facing the country around HIV and AIDS, sexual abuse as well as gender-based violence”. Mr. Ambe added, “Children and young people who play soccer in small towns or begin playing when they are young are often part of coed teams. This is a plus everyone is involved and this doesn’t happen in most other sports. Boys learn about respecting girls and everyone benefits from this. When boys and girls learn to work together as equals, lessons are being learned that will serve both sexes well”.