Changing Football at the Grass Roots Level

-- Nellie Taking Action to Change Children and Youth Football in Choiseul Province --

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Just Play Coordinator Ms. Nellie Siope at the SIFF Academy in Honiara.

BY ESTHER NURIA

CHILDREN and youth sports development are set to undergo a dramatic shake-up as woman football coordinator for Choiseul province, Ms. Nellie Siope who recently attended the Just Play Programme training workshop in Honiara aims to share her experience and take action in the provincial rural communities. 

“I am happy to come to build my capability and I’ll go back to my province to develop our children through this programme,” she expressed.

Parents, sports masters, and sporting coordinators hold the key to addressing the current problems children and youth football development faces in the Solomon Islands. The emphasis of football should be on having fun and player development, not winning, the Choiseul Provincial Government, Coordinator for Youth and Sport Division said.

Ms. Siope was the only female participant (out of the seventeen (17) male football coordinators) of the five-day capacity-building workshop training held from 21 to 22 February at the Rock Heaven Inn in Honiara.

The training she attended seeks to address the following primary areas:

· Child Survival— by reducing the risk factors associated with non-communicable diseases, and engaging children and adolescents with a range of health issues;

· Education— by facilitating the development of important life skills applicable both on and off the field, including the acceptance of rules, decision-making, teamwork, respect and play;

· Gender Equality— by changing perceptions towards women and girls, and creating pathways to empower women and girls to realize their human right;

· Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH)—by supporting the development of positive WASH behaviors and practices in schools, communities and in times of emergencies;

· Child Protection and Social Inclusion—by challenging harmful social norms and stereotypes, and creating pathways to empower those disadvantaged on the basis of their gender, identity or ability to realize their human rights; and

· Emergency— by building resilience and supporting the emotional recovery of children and adolescents following natural disasters and conflict.

The Choiseul based Just Play Coordinator said the workshop is refreshing as it will enable her to carry out Just Play activities that she incorporated in her overall work plan for this year in the rural communities in Choiseul province.

“I’m so fortunate to participate in the workshop training because it will help me to train school; sports masters and community volunteers on how just play program will help bring up children together to have a positive mind for football development in our province.

“I’ve learned a lot of vital tips, tools, knowledge, and skills in the one-week training and 

It will prepare me to carry out my football development activities this year.

“I’m ready to take up the challenge as a sporting leader in my province,” Ms. Siope said.

Through the OFC Just Play Programme children and adolescents are empowered to advocate as agents for change, supporting the development of positive behavior practices and the enhancement of resilience among their peers and community.

Just Play is an award-winning Sport for Development Programme using the power of football to improve the lives of children aged 6-18-years throughout the Pacific. 

It recognizes the important role that sport can play in supporting the holistic development of children and adolescents. This sport-based programme the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) uses as a critical intervention alongside football development at regional and national levels. 

Ms. Siope highlighted what she wanted to initially achieve under the Just Play Programmes in the Choiseul province.

“The Programme is purposely aimed for primary school children in the rural communities in our province. We hope to shift the dissemination of the Just Play Programme to the secondary school students aged below 18 in the future,” she said. 

The Just Play program was just introduced to Choiseul province this year by Solomon Islands Football Federation (SIFF).

She aims to promote gender equality through the rural development of football in the province.

“I hope to take the challenging step of changing the traditional perceptions towards women and girls in football and to create a pathway to empower rural girls to realize their human rights to play football alongside with boys.

Despite the Choiseul province geographical landscape and location are quite scattered and isolated to reach by means of mobility and transportation (quite costly), Ms. Siope hopes to take up the challenge in creating pathways to empower those disadvantaged on the basis of their gender in the rural communities of her home province.

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