Football and the Power to Strengthen Reproductive Rights

Mar 28th, 2022 | By | Category: Youth Rights

By Joshua Mirondo, Transition Earth.

[Figure 1 - One of the girls teams lining up before their game]

[Figure 1 – One of the girls teams lining up before their game]

Young people are diverse and so are their needs, therefore to get their attention, one needs to be considerate. In a community where reproductive health is often called immoral, it takes a lot of work to break these barriers. Many interventions have been made to ensure that young people have access to reproductive health information and services ranging from ‘edutainment’ to sports to table talks, among other efforts. Today I want to focus on the influence of sports to break down barriers, particularly football.

Last week, an organization called Tackle Africa organized a football tournament aimed at reaching out to young people in Kawempe, a Kampala suburb with free sexual and reproductive rights & health (SRHR) services and information, including HIV. It also focused on promoting equal opportunities, inclusiveness irrespective of gender or origin, and enhancing community engagements. The tournament was joined by 8 teams, four boys and four girls from within and beyond Kawempe division. They played a total of twelve matches in the group stages overall, and two finals, thus a total of fourteen games. The champion will win a branded trophy, gold medals, and balls, whereas the runners-up shall win branded silver medals.

As the games were going on, the NGO Reproductive Health Uganda, supported by the Aga Khan Foundation’s Under Their Hands Programme, were providing SRHR services besides the pitch. These included free HIV counseling and testing, family planning, and (sexually transmitted infections) STI management. There were also community facilitators who focused on health talks and ensuring adolescent girls enroll onto the Tiko platform.


[Figure 2 - Girls teams in action]

[Figure 2 – Girls teams in action]

Why Football?

Sports help create room for dialogue. Adolescent girls and boys in communities can openly talk about SRHR issues when playing football. This can be in a form of interaction where young people may ask how to keep fit but the facilitators or coaches drive the conversation to talk about sexual and reproductive health. It also creates a safe space where young people can freely express themselves without fear of being judged. Empowering young people through football and other sports improves life skills and can contribute to sexual and reproductive health

Gender Transformative Approach

Football is a male-dominated field, and this can be a pathway in addressing gender inequities in health and promoting SRHR. This entails engaging men and boys to understand how to treat women and girls with honor and respect. This also entails teaching about menstrual health, gender-based violence prevention,among other topics. Communities and individuals are at risk when girls and boys are not educated about life skills and appropriate gender dynamics.


[Figure 3 - some of the participants waiting to receive services]

[Figure 3 – some of the participants waiting to receive services]

Translation of off-pitch practices

Football has a wide range of lessons that can build safety awareness, confidence, and self-esteem among young people. They can be given opportunities to become leaders (those appointed as captains), exposed to role models, and given commendation when they progress.  This makes young people feel positive about themselves, helping them be much more likely to withstand peer pressure to have sex before they are ready. This reduces the likeliness of engaging in risky sexual behaviors that may result in unwanted pregnancies or sexually transmitted infections.

Football, therefore, has the potential to reach out to hard-to-access and vulnerable groups such as students who dropped out of school and unemployed young adults, migrant populations and adolescent girls.  Sports are a winning path for youth rights.


Joshua Mirondo is a program associate with Transition Earth, based in Uganda.


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