The Arab Spring: Revolution and Shifting Geopolitics - Sports: A Powerful Strategy to Advance Women's Rights

The Arab Spring: Revolution and Shifting Geopolitics - Sports: A Powerful Strategy to Advance Women's Rights

By Astrid Aafjes

Astrid Aafjes is the founder and executive director of Women Win. She has headed studies on women's microcredit for the UNDP, worked with the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women on a global report for the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, and led the program department of Mama Cash, the first International Women's Fund. Ms. Aafjes holds a Law degree from the University of Amsterdam.

Excerpt -  35 Fletcher F. World Aff. 53

INTRODUCTION

On the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day, March 8, 2011, more than 1,000 supporters gathered in Washington, D.C., to celebrate and kick off CARE's Annual Conference. 1 Each year, CARE bestows their "I Am Powerful" Award upon a person who has had a profound effect upon his or her community or the community of others. This year, CARE presented the award to Peninah Nthenya Musyimi, the founder of Safe Spaces, a sports-for-women's-rights program in the Mathare slums of Nairobi, Kenya.

Safe Spaces provides an excellent example of a gender-targeted program that applies sports as a strategy to advance women's rights. In addition to basketball, yoga, and dance classes, Safe Spaces' leaders (who are all women) hold weekly discussions where participants talk about issues affecting girls and young women who live in the slums. Since its creation in 2008, Safe Spaces has worked with over 500 girls.

Nthenya Musyimi founded Safe Spaces when she returned to the community where she grew up, after she had escaped the slums and had attended university on a basketball scholarship. As a child, she had witnessed the injustices women faced in the slums, where "all women's rights are violated and nobody cares." 2 She realized she could be most effective as a role model, finding that girls who participate in the Safe Spaces program have an increased determination to escape from the slums. 3

Like Nthenya Musyimi, international development agencies, donors, governments, universities, and nonprofits are turning ...

 

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