Today, 8 March, is International Women’s Day. At GAIN we know how important good nutrition is to achieve the full potential of (young) women (and men). By combining nutrition education with football, we believe we can influence adolescent girls about healthy diets, something that is difficult to achieve via health or school channels.
Adolescence represents a critical stage for girls characterized by rapid physical growth; physical, social, and psychological maturity including sexual maturity; development of adult mental processes and identity; and the transition from total socio-economic dependence to relative independence. These physical and psychological changes place a great demand on girls’ nutritional requirements and result in more independence in food choice. This makes them more vulnerable to nutritional deficiencies and increases the risk of excess weight gain.
GAIN is working with KNVB WorldCoaches to test a program that trains female football coaches in Kenya. They in turn teach adolescent girls in Kenya not only how to score a goal but also life skills, and, crucially, how to eat healthy. This can be advice on healthy snacks, drinking plenty of water, choosing iron rich food and making sure the girls eat as much of a diverse diet as possible so that their nutrient intake is adequate.
Football is a strong tool to empower young girls by playing and having fun as a team, while at the same time growing awareness of their bodies and health. What we aim for is that through the practice sessions with their coaches, the girls gain knowledge on nutrition and that this enables them to also communicate this knowledge to their families and wider communities. Using football can also contribute to the girls’ empowerment by giving them more self-confidence. And the WorldCoaches acquire valuable leadership skills.
We are confident that the results of the pilot show that the program has influence on the knowledge and attitudes of the girls. Empowering girls with football skills and knowledge on nutrition: that is what we aim for.
Published on 8 March