Girls, Nutrition and Sports for Development

You are a girl. You should have feminine quality. Do not act like a boy! OMG….. this is a ball! this is only for boys! No pants please wear skirt! Oh ho…. how could you participate in sports? No no… No way! Football: it is boy’s game not girls. Go and play with dolls in your room.

This is how an adolescent girl in most of the South Asian Countries come across. And Nepal is not exceptional. The trend of participating young girls in sports during their schooling has been increasing but drop-out once they start menstruating is high in deed. Personally I never participated in out door games like football, basketball and volleyball. My childhood has a great memory of my female cousins spending our weekend at home, in a close room with Barbie and so called girl toys. I swear our parents were happy to see us enjoying their daughters totally draining into feminine character where male toys were always superior than female.

Also I remember my first menstruation and I made my family shocked. I belong to a Newar Buddhist community where an adolescent girl must perform a traditional ritual called “Barah” before she starts her period. You wont believe I was not given salt in my food. Can you imagine an adolescent girl in her first stage of puberty and going through menstruation not given salt in her food? I still could not understand this and this ritual still continues in our community. But I am 100% sure in my family and area where I live have gradually coming out of this ritual for putting their adolescent daughters in a dark room for almost 12 days during her first menstruation. We still need to advocate about this.

Well why I am talking about this is I recently attended  two days workshop Sports for Development Conference organized by the AFC ans One goal in collaboration with the 2014 AFC Women’s Asian Cup final which was hosted in Ho Chi Minh City from 23rd-24th May, 2014.  The Conference brought together NGOs, sporting agencies, corporates, AFC member associations, sport for development community-based organisations, and government bodies to discuss:

  • The current landscape of nutrition, women in development, and grassroots football for girls in Asia
  • International best practices, effective program models, and a way to move forward for nutrition, gender, and grassroots football for girls in Asia
  • CSR in Sports and Sports as CSR
  • The need for strong partnerships between governments, sports organisations, corporations and NGOs to make Sports for Development a success

Conference special guests and attendees shared their expertise, concerns, and best practices which made for lively panel discussions and engaging themed sessions. Here are the highlights from the Sports For Development Conference Ho Chi Minh City.

The above statement I presented during my presentation entitled “Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights for All” During my presentation I linked young people’s SRHR with nutrition and sports.

Yes! I do believe that football can make a difference. I am so fortunate to be part of the two day workshop and learn more about adolescent girls participation in football and how life changing with One Goal Campaign. I would like to thank Women Deliver for providing me this opportunity to represent my Local NGO Bhaktapur Youth Information Forum in such a great platform.

“Football is the most successful sport in the world. It’s the sport anyone anywhere can play anytime. The power football has to change lives [is real]. It’s about how football can be relevant in all areas — not just the elite, but at the grassroots. …20% of football players in Australia are female. Girls must have the opportunity to play. …Football is more than just a game…” -Emma Highwood (Head of Community Football, Football Federation Australia)

New One Goal Report released: Improving Nutrition for Adolescent Girls in Asia and the Middle East: Innovations are Needed

Dr. Regina Moench-Pfanner from the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (a core ONE GOAL partner) presents a new report that highlights the need for innovations in improving the nutrition of adolescent girls in Asia and the Middle East to Dr. Nguyen Cong Khan (Director General, Administration of Science Technology and Training, Ministry of Health Vietnam).

Dr. Regina Moench-Pfanner from the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (a core ONE GOAL partner) presents a new report that highlights the need for innovations in improving the nutrition of adolescent girls in Asia and the Middle East to Dr. Nguyen Cong Khan (Director General, Administration of Science Technology and Training, Ministry of Health Vietnam).

“Eat, Play, Live Right” – pan Asian photo exhibition on football, nutrition and children 

Healthy children equals healthy communities. The ONE GOAL campaign seeks to help build healthy nations by ensuring nutrition for every child, leveraging the power of football. The “Eat, Play, Live Right” photo exhibition showcases the amazing work of developing communities through sport, especially football, being done by One Goal partners around Asia. AFC Deputy General Secretary Dato’ Windsor John and Ministry of Health Vietnam Director General Dr. Nguyen Cong Khan open the photo exhibition at the Sports For Development Conference.

Freestyle Football demonstrations

“All you need is a ball” is the motto of Freestyle Football who combine freestyle tricks and dance by using a football.

Themed session highlights

Nutrition and Maternal Health
  • There are clear linkages between the health of girls and women, nutrition, and participation in football.
  • It’s critical that we look at nutrition through a woman’s lifecycle, and particularly how nutrition intersects with maternal health. For example, half of all pregnant women in developing countries are iron deficient, which can lead to hemorrhage during childbirth.
  • Access to nutrition and to maternal health services is a rights-based issue.
  • When addressing youth health services, it is critical to ensure that young people themselves are involved in the planning and implementation of these programs.
Women’s Health and HIV
  • There are 1.7 million women living with HIV in Asia. In Vietnam, 54& of HIV positive women report that their only possible exposure to the disease was through their intimate partner.
  • This is a rights issue: women and girls need equitable access to services, and to live free of violence, coercion and stigma.
  • When addressing nutrition, there is a critical need to shift the focus to adolescent girls, for their own sake and that of their offspring, to break the cycle of malnutrition, prevent obesity and chronic diseases later in life. Doing this requires working with boys as well.
  • Football can be a useful mechanism to send messages on nutrition.
  • Young people in humanitarian/crisis settings can be particularly vulnerable to HIV. Often, youth needs are not adequately addressed.
  • Again, meaningful youth participation is needed.

Girls participation in grassroots football

  • The opportunity to take part in grassroots football and other sports, for millions of girls around the world, depends on them having the same fundamental rights and freedoms as boys.
  • There is a way forward. This doesn’t have to be a continual problem.
  • Grassroots football can empower girls by helping them realize opportunity.

One Goal in Vietnam – a way forward

  • Members from National Institute of Nutrition, World Vision Vietnam, Football For All Vietnam, Libero Sports, World Vision Australia and Royal DSM met to discuss the way forward for One Goal in Vietnam.
  • There are proven models which can be used to scale up efforts to address nutrition: Fortified food products, Nutrition education materials, Nutrition clubs – holistic community based approaches to extend Government health services, Football for development models. We know what can be done and through One Goal there is an opportunity to leverage sport to scale up effective models to ensure more children in Vietnam get the right nutrition and can participate in sport for a healthy lifestyle.
  • There are great distribution mechanisms and institutional infrastructures in place in Vietnam: Women’s Union, Youth Union, Health networks, Schools, Parents, Provincial football structures. There are opportunities for inclusive business to improve the food choices at the base of the pyramid.