Girls Level the Playing Field in Senegal
Wrestling is one of the most popular sports in Senegal. In the Casamance region, women wrestlers dominate in tournaments and enjoy a level of popularity usually reserved for male athletes.
Young wrestlers like Fatou, 12, feel empowered to assert their presence in the ring and in life. “Wrestling taught me to be a brave person,” she says. “I feel very strong.”
But in other parts of the country, many girls struggle to access the same opportunities to play sports – and benefit from the life skills and personal growth it brings – as boys. That’s what the RECAF-Jeu program is trying to change.
ADVANCING GENDER EQUALITY THROUGH SPORT
Harmful gender norms prevent many girls and young women in Senegal from realizing their enormous potential. Forced marriage and early pregnancy, as well as the unequal burden of household chores, conspire to keep girls out of school and the workforce. Deeply entrenched practices, like female genital mutilation, risk their health and opportunities.
Just 14% of girls surveyed during the project’s implementation reported feeling like they have decision-making power over whether they pursue studies and when they marry.
The Renforcement des Capacités des Filles par le Sport et le Jeu (RECAF-Jeu) project is creating opportunities for girls and young women to participate in sports, develop life skills, transcend boundaries, and claim the future they choose. We’ll reach 10,000 youth, 600 coaches, and 89,000 community members in the regions of Sédhiou and Ziguinchor with sport and play activities that will empower girls to develop leadership and communication skills and self-esteem. The project supports girls’ agency, positive masculinity, and community engagement to combat harmful traditional practices and negative gender norms.
Khady Ndour is a Training Officer with the project. “We live in a country where women’s rights are recognized, but there is still work to be done,” she says. “Women still experience marginalization, especially in sports.”
CHALLENGING GENDER NORMS, ON AND OFF THE FIELD
With the chance to play sports, girls unlock their determination, leadership, and confidence. "Basketball has given me lots of opportunities,” says Aïcha, 17, a project participant. “I was really shy. When I started playing basketball, things got better as I started to meet new people.”
“Sport is not just for boys. Girls have the right to play sports.” - Aïcha, 17
On the football pitch, Sagna, 17, feels supported and empowered alongside her teammates. “Football is good for girls because when you play, you feel good. And you make lots of friends.”
With the chance to step off the sidelines and play the sports they love, Fatou, Aïcha, Sagna, and thousands of other young women are channeling their inner resilience to claim their right to an education and a healthy and fulfilling life. They’re changing the story for girls.
HOW ANNA IS INSPIRING GIRLS TO DREAM OF SOMETHING BIGGER
Anna, a young woman who achieved her dream of becoming a referee through RECAF-Jeu, is passionate about encouraging girls to get involved with sports.
Having experienced the power of play, she was able to rise above the discrimination she faced in her role because of her gender. During her first day of training, Anna remembers saying, “I want to prove them wrong. I want to show them that I can do it.”
The Renforcement des Capacités des Filles par le Sport et le Jeu (RECAF-Jeu) project is made possible with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada, and implementation support from the Liverpool Football Club Foundation.