Football Camp Boots Social Cohesion Between Refugees and Host Communities in Mafraq, Irbid and Ramtha
Ministry of Education is supported to build trust between Jordanian and Syrian girls in schools with double shifts in Jordan to reduce social tensions, build non-violent communication and increase gender equality.
AMMAN, 5 March 2016 – UN Women, in partnership with the Asian Football Development Project (AFDP) and Search for Common Ground (SFCG), and in close coordination with the Ministry of Education, held three-day girls football camps on February 25-27 in Mafraq and on March 3-5 in Irbid and Ramtha as part of the “Empowering Girls While Building Social Cohesion through Physical Education and Sports” project generously funded by Government of Italy and Government of Finland. The project aims to strengthen gender equality and enhance social cohesion between Syrian and Jordanian girls by using football to teach them how to communicate effectively and work collaboratively to ease mounting tensions.
During the three-day camp, 90 girls (30 Syrians and 30 Jordanians), selected from different schools throughout the Mafraq, Irbid and Ramtha governorates, participated in an array of activities to increase trust and build relationships, and will work in pairs to design and develop small community projects that can be implemented in their communities.
Manar, a 15-year-old Jordanian participant, reflected, “I never thought I would play or get in touch with Syrian girls. The camp provided the opportunity to know them closely and understand we have common issues to deal with.” Opportunities for meaningful peaceful engagement between refugees and host communities have been rare even though Jordan has long been a place of refuge for civilians fleeing neighbouring countries – Palestinians, Iraqis, and Syrians – due to its geographical position and overall security.
Of the 637,859 UNHCR registered Syrian refugees currently residing in Jordan, approximately 82% are living in urban settlements and only 18% live in camps. Analyses of conflict drivers and potential avenues for peace identified a need for creating additional safe spaces for Syrians and Jordanians to interact and build social cohesion, particularly for children and youth. This project provides that space.
Rasha Saleem, the SFCG project Manager, said, “Tension and stress in the relationships between the Syrian and Jordanian students was very clear on the first day of the camp. Playing together erased the differences in nationalities and put them in situations to deal with their conflicts and reach a win-win situation in the sport competitions. The soccer games were a space for them to communicate. SFCG helped transform the blaming and the negativity to a non-violent way of communicating and appreciating positive attitudes.”
To teach the girls these non-violent communication tools, social cohesion workshops were held in December for 25 physical education teachers that focused on teaching tools and activities that can be easily integrated into lessons and coaching. The tools and activities empowered the physical education teachers to encourage trust and relationship building, non-violent communication, and negotiation skills among their students as well as inspire Syrian and Jordanian youth in the north of Jordan to participate in physical education and sports programs.
On the need for continued collaboration, Sara, a 14-year-old Syrian participant, stated, “Cooperation is important to continue our life peacefully.” As the project continues, it will encourage and empower Syrian and Jordanian girls to use their new friendships and skills to positively impact the tolerance and social cohesion in their communities.
The AFDP, with support from PepsiCo and various development organizations, has been running regular football programs for boys and girls at the Zaatari Camp and surrounding refugee-host communities in Northern Jordan since 2012, in addition to a recently launched initiative at the camp of Azraq, with the purpose of facilitating integration and instilling a sense of normalcy amongst the young refugees. The AFDP continues to also work closely with the UN’s Office on Sport for Development and Peace (UNOSDP) and other UN agencies on a number of projects including World Refugee Day activities.