Friday, May 4, 2012

Better late than never... 8 Mars 2012

Last year I wrote a post about International Women's Day. As a Girls Empowerment volunteer (and a female), I felt I had extra stake in the holiday, and needed to celebrate it to the best of my abilities. Well, I left the regional festivities feeling disappointed, disheartened, and un-celebrated. Hayley had dubbed the day 8 Mens, and we wanted to change that.

During the summer, a friend of ours started working with us to organized a soccer tournament that would include only females this time (last year two boys teams played), and take place on the 8th of March. Hayley and I already had a team of eager girls ready for a rematch with the neighboring Tiankoura team (the last game was tied), and wanted to include our other volunteer friends' villages as well. The final format ended up as a one day, 4 team, 3 match, single elimination tournament to be held in a stadium at the site of this year's regional celebration.

Despite a few transportation snafus, we managed to get all of the girls (coming from as far as 40 kilometers away) to the stadium by about 9 in the morning. The referees we hired were raring to go before it got too hot, and our girls were up first. Even though they lost to Diebougou, they were excited to play in the stadium with an audience bigger than they'd ever seen. We managed to feed lunch to all 100 participants, refs, and coaches for less than 50 bucks, and, thanks to donations from a team in the states, every girl received a t-shirt, the winning team, a set of jerseys.

The afternoon's final match was scheduled on top of another game, which ended up meaning even more spectators to cheer on the teams that were left standing. After my neighbor Austin's team defeated Diebougou's in a shoot out, it was time to watch what we thought was women “teachers vs. nurses” match. Hayley and I, working in these two fields, got to play in the second half – barefoot, in all our 8 Mars pagne glory, and in front of several hundred attendees. My team (which it turns out were actually housewives), lost, but it was a great way to end the day.

I am often frustrated by my villagers, male teachers, and even community leaders who make offhand sexist remarks about female's inability to do certain things- 'girls can't/don't want to play sports,' 'they've got to go to chores anyway.' I've tried through my work (specifically with girls), everyday conversations, and my actions in general to do what I can to chip away at such stereotypes. Do I sound like I know anything about soccer? Because I seem to remember being the only person on my 8th grade team NOT to score a goal – clearly I'm no expert. And yet, my team and this tournament certainly feel like one of my biggest accomplishments to date. If anything, there are a few more people that now recognize that boys aren't the only ones who can and want to play sports. In fact, their sisters, teachers, and moms definitely could (and did) kick my ass.

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