For the West African countries as Burkina Faso, football remains a sport dominated almost exclusively by men and boys. In the villages, rarely, if ever, are girls and women given the opportunity to play “the beautiful game”. Many Volunteers address this by forming girls’ soccer teams in their villages. Three volunteers, Hallie Eilerts, Todd Burns, and Elisabeth Chop decided to go one step further and organize the first ever girls soccer camp in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina’s second largest city during the last week in August.
Bobo Girls Soccer Camp methodology used soccer drills to teach and reinforce HIV prevention, leadership skills, and health living, using the techniques of Grassroots Soccer. The 54 young participants gained new soccer skills as well as life skills that included recognizing and avoiding risky behaviors. Burkinabe community counterparts were involved throughout the camp. Seven of them served as counselors and five trainers from the Red Cross and Marie Stopes International participated as well. The Red Cross certified trainers taught the participants basic First Aid and how to react in an emergency medical situation. The girls learned what to say when calling emergency services, how to turn an unconscious person on their side, how to staunch a wound to stop the bleeding, how to carry injured people to safety, and the Heimlich maneuver. Two Social Marketing Agents from Marie Stopes International facilitated sessions on family planning and reproductive health and answered questions from participants. The girls also learned the importance of vigilance and precaution in preventing violence. A local teacher, trained in martial arts, taught the group basic self-defense moves to perform in an emergency situation. The participants learned the importance of staying healthy by eating nutritious food, drinking plenty of water and staying in shape. At the end of the week, each team demonstrated lessons learned throughout the camp by creating and performing a skit. HIV prevention, gender roles, first aid, and self-defense were all reinforced through theater.
With the newfound skills, knowledge, and confidence gained throughout the week, the 54 participants left the camp better equipped to succeed against the challenges they face and better informed on the realities of life.