Empowering Girls Through Sport
Young women passing and running with a ball is a rare sight in Uganda, where sports are thought of as inappropriate activities for girls and immense cultural pressure to marry early and have children prevents many women from pursuing education or employment. Our Member of the Month, the Entebbe Sharks, are on a mission to change this! The first girls team in Entebbe, the Sharks were founded in 2011 by Annekatrin Els and Ugandan national team player Helen Buteme. The Sharks use rugby to empower their girls to be strong and independent on the pitch, and then to help them transfer this empowerment to the rest of their lives by encouraging them to attend school and continue on to university, finding (or even creating!) employment opportunities and starting a family when they are ready for it.
Working with the Malayaka House
The Entebbe Sharks have introduced rugby to young women in Uganda, but their program goes beyond just playing rugby. All of their participants come from poor backgrounds and lack basic necessities. Working with the Malayka House, an orphanage in Uganda, the team provides the girls with the equipment, transportation and medical support it takes to allow them the opportunity to participate in the sport they love. They also support by paying the girl’s school fees, something that in the past prevented many of the girls from seeking education. This basic support empowers the girls to develop independence and confidence both on and off the pitch. Founder Annekatrin Els has said “the most important thing is that we keep the girls motivated and happy.” What an amazing example of #rugby4good at work!
Entrepreneurship in Entebbe
As a #rugby4good program the Entebbe Sharks do more than develop rugby athletes. They are now preparing their youth to compete in a difficult job market in Uganda by helping them develop vocational skills and empowering them to help develop funds for the team. In the entrepreneurial spirit the girls took part in a local BBQ where they were responsible for budgeting, shopping, preparing and selling food and cookies for the event. They have also begun selling cakes at Malayaka House twice a week to raise the funds they need to continue to play.
Stories of Success
One of the most powerful stories of success for the Entebbe Sharks is that of Hilda, a young woman from Kisoro, a town in southern Uganda, close to Rwanda. She found the Sharks through a former player and from the moment she picked up a ball she was determined to make rugby work for her. With the support of the Sharks she has now finished secondary school and is currently training for the national team to participate in a 7s tournament in Kenya next month. After this she plans to get a job and attend university later this year. We are proud to share her story and wish her continued success!
We thank the Entebbe Sharks for their inspirational work in Uganda and look forward to exciting news from them in the future!