October 2, 2020
From September 28 to October 9, we are highlighting the stories and work of our 2020 Beyond Sport Global Awards Shortlisters who are using sport to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being at all ages. This collaborative project is one of them. Learn more about the inspiring work Coaches Across Contents and Pathfinder International are doing using the tool of sport to address taboo women’s health issues in Tanzania.
If you were to observe a game of “Egg, Sperm and Goalkeepers” being played on a pitch in Zanzibar, you might mistake it for a sport you already know.
“It looks a lot like a traditional game of football,” Nora Dooley, Impact Team Leader at Coaches Across Continents, said. “But we’re not talking at all about football. That’s not our objective.”
Two teams try to kick a ball into their opponent’s goal. At the beginning of the game, each team is not allowed to protect their goal with a keeper, and as you might imagine, it becomes a high scoring affair. “We then ask the players, ‘what could this mean when it comes to pregnancy?’” Nora said. “And what can we do to protect ourselves?”
In the second round, a goalkeeper is added and in the third round, a second goalkeeper may join, and so on. It’s a simple and concise way of beginning a dialogue around contraception, which in Zanzibar and greater Tanzania, is not something normally discussed.
The Tanzanian Health Survey states that 27% of teenage girls between ages 15-19 were already mothers or pregnant with their first child in 2016. An estimated 1 million women face an unintended pregnancy every year.
These staggering levels of teenage pregnancies have knock-on effects that contribute to health, education and gender equality outcomes. Pregnant teenage girls in Tanzania are normally expelled from school. Over 20 Tanzanian women die each day from complications in pregnancy and childbirth.
“Sexual health issues are directly linked to education and to so many other pathways of community and personal development,” Nora said.
To address this problem, Coaches Across Continents (CAC) and Pathfinder International partnered to deliver the first Purposeful Play program to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). The program was launched at the start of 2019 after 6 months of planning, curriculum development and project design with Pathfinder International.
The partnership was brokered by a local Tanzanian CAC coach, Nico, who demanded “we have to do something about teenage pregnancy.” To Nico, sport is uniquely placed to tackle this issue.
“Through Purposeful Play, we can open up a world for youth that allows them to have these conversations where normally they can’t,” Nora said. “It allows them to do that in a way that is accessible, that is approachable, and that’s through play.”
This concept of Purposeful Play is at the core of the CAC mission.
CAC are multiple-time Beyond Sport Global Award Winners, notably winning Best New Project at our inaugural Awards in 2009 and Global Impact Award in 2019. They work with governments, corporations, foundations and community-based organizations to implement their Education Outside the Classroom programming and create lasting social change based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Pathfinder International is a global non-profit which has been working since 1957 to increase access to sexual and reproductive health and rights and promote healthy pregnancies. While CAC have conducted SRHR focused programmes before, Pathfinder’s expertise in this area has taken this program to the next level.
So much of CAC’s success lies in their ability to foster collaboration. They brought together global experts in SRHR with Pathfinder International, project evaluation with Upshot (a Beyond Sport Global Awards Business Support Package Partner), youth leadership with Michael Johnson Young Leaders (a thinkBeyond client), and local programming with the Ministry of Sport in Zanzibar and coaches and educators from communities across mainland Tanzania.
Spearheading this effort, CAC designed the SRHR curriculum which includes four modules: Knowledge of reproductive health and rights; Community responsibility; Healthy household environment and Conservation. To address these issues this project is creating universal access to sexual and reproductive care, family planning and education using Education Outside the Classroom.
Using the tried and tested train-the-trainers model, which CAC has implemented in their programs across the world, they have gathered 22 key leaders representing 31 organizations gathered for an intensive Hub training in June 2019. These leaders have since been delivering year-round programs with youth in their respective communities, focusing their impact around SDG Target 3.7.
In a short time, CAC are already seeing changes in the communities in which they operate. So far, 92% of participating youth are confident they could get their partner(s) to use contraceptives if they desired. While 94% of participating youth are confident they could refuse sex if they did not want it.
Looking forward, Nora and the wide range of partners are determined to build on their successes and continue their hard work.
“To be recognized by our peers in this way, it feels like permission to keep going,” Nora said. “We’re excited to keep going.”
This collaborative project from Coaches Across Continents and Pathfinder International is a 2020 Beyond Sport Global Awards Shortlister in the Sport for Health and Well-being Category. Learn more about the rest of this year’s Shortlist and follow their journeys at beyondsport.org/journey