Netball is a hybrid between handball and basketball. While boys prefer soccer, netball is the sport of choice for girls across Southern Africa. Unfortunately, funding and access to netball is often limited or takes a backseat to soccer. The Impact Network's new initiative, Netgirls Zambia is bringing access to the game and organizing leagues across rural Zambia with the objective of empowering and improving the lives of girls by providing opportunity for growth through play and engagement in group sport. We have begun our work this year in Katete district in Eastern Zambia where we already have over 50 teams and 600 girls participating.
Watch a clip of our girls here.
Research has shown that giving girls the opportunity to play sports has awesome benefits, including: Breaking down gender stereotypes, building leadership skills, expanding social networks, providing female mentorship and role models, teaching teamwork, building self esteem, improving happiness through healthy, social organized activities. In Zambia, girls often miss out on opportunities to play sports because they are expected to help with chores and take care of younger siblings. In rural areas, one in three girls between the ages of 15 and 19 is a teen mom, the average girl gets married at age 18 and has 7.5 children in their lifetime (ZDHS 2007).
In 2013, Dr. David Seidenfeld noticed that many girls did not have the opportunity to play sports in rural Zambia. David spent time in Katete, Zambia during the peace corps and has returned throughout the years as a development researcher. He teamed up with Dr. Amber Peterman, a gender specialist who focuses on women's and girl's health to discuss how this gap could be filled. They realized that with very few resources, and with a little help, they could start their own league focusing the adolescent girls and netball. For the first season, David and Amber recruited local Katete philanthropist, business owner, and sports lover, Mr. Yahya Collector to found the first rural netball league for girls. The league was run through a combination of own funding, in addition to donations from their friends and family. In 2015, Netgirls Zambia affiliated with the e-learning and education NGO, Impact Network to plan expansion and improvement of the league.
Ad-hoc teams exist in rural areas, however many lack proper equipment, structure and support to operate in an organized way. To change that, we piloted a league in 2014 which had approximately 50 teams and 600 girls aged 15 to 22. The teams were coached by volunteers and managed at the ward level by local staff. Teams practiced daily and held games with teams from neighboring villages on weekends. Scores and game recaps were announced on local radio and as the girls fan bases in the villages grew. The league culminated with a tournament to determine the highly sought after district champions. The league was a smashing success and we are looking for ways to expand and improve in the coming season. Initially the focus will be on athletics, while looking for other opportunities to include self-esteem and leadership components.
The money will go to purchasing equipment (netballs, jerseys, whistles), prizes for tournaments and staff salaries. Since many of those involved in the league work on a volunteer basis, the cost of the pilot was less than $5 per girl for the first season. In the coming season, which will run from May to September of 2015, we plan to scale up with additional support and geographical coverage. Stay tuned for more!