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Levelling the Playing Field: A Workshop on Sports, Gender, and Empowerment

EMpower Foundation Workshop – Written by S4H Program Manager, Karl Voysey

On the 19th September Wewe and I met at the Cape Town International airport at 05h30 to board the plane for the first phase of our long trip to Brazil. After a complicated trip we arrived a day late in the hot and sticky bustling city of Rio Dejaneiro.

Cynthia, Virginia, and Andrea from the EMpower Foundation welcomed us warmly and encouraged us to get some sleep and freshen up before joining the workshop at lunch on the first day.

We were introduced to the representatives from many different organisations. All of them run successful, innovative gender empowerment projects all over the world, supported by Empower.  There were representatives from India, China, Nigeria, Turkey, Columbia, New York, Brazil and South Africa.

The objective of the workshop was simply to share the vast amount of experience in sport, gender and empowerment, brought to the table by the fascinating organisations and participants. This was achieved through a variety of interesting sessions facilitated through a range of different methodologies. The EMpower team encouraged active participation and let us define the course of the workshop as it developed.

There was also a strong focus on getting us outside the workshop room and experiencing first hand the complex Brazilian neighbourhoods and cultures. We visited Luta Pela Paz (http://www.fightforpeace.net) in the Maré community. Luta uses boxing and martial arts combined with education and personal development to realise the potential of young people in communities that suffer from crime and violence. We spent the day discussing different topics with their Youth Council and other leaders. This experience made me realise the importance of establishing a Youth Council for MVP’s. It is an idea that we have been toying with but will now become a priority of mine in 2011. Spending time in the Maré community made us aware of how the social challengers differ in South Africa, and how big our job of youth development and gender empowerment really is!!

During the week we saw some amazing sites like the iconic Christo Redentor atop the Corcovado, the old streets of Lapa where there is always a Samba party with the locals, and the beautiful beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema.

The best part for both Wewe and I was most definitely the friendships that we made with the other Workshop participants and the EMpower team. The common ground of youth development and specifically gender empowerment through sport created a strong bond. We will be able to call on these friendships for advice, opportunities and strength in the future.

A warm thank you to the EMpower team for this incredible opportunity, and to our new friends from all over the world for making this experience so special!!

You will all be welcomed warmly in Cape Town!

Karl and Wewe