Bong County opened its county meet event yesterday, the 4th of January, 2023, while Gbarnga Community-Based Organization kicked off its campaign to end Sexual and Gender-Based Violence against women and girls.
Soccer is a global sport that unites the universe. The recent world cup in Qatar saw millions of people witnessing the tournament, and all players, including officials, wore anti-racism bangles that promoted a non-discriminatory environment.
Soccer cannot change the world; however, it can influence change. In Algeria, the football team was founded in 1958 as part of the National Liberation Front (FLN) army that fought for independence from France, which Algeria gained in 1962. In 1996, soccer united South Africans and encouraged them to find common ground in forgiving each other and living together. In 2006, Ivorian players under Didier Drogba's leadership pleaded for a cease-fire and begged for love from each other. Two years after Drogba's moving speech, a peace agreement was signed inside the Al-Merrikh Stadium. In Liberia, his excellency Honorable President George Weah, contributed to cease fire during the Liberian civil conflict through soccer matches.
Likewise, this time around, Bong County saw its County Soccer Meet opening on January 4th.. This County Soccer MEET is one of the most followed sports events in Liberia as most people throng the stadiums to cheer their county teams.
Gbarnga Community Based Organization, under the "Just and Equal Communities (JEC)" project, took advantage of the convergence to raise awareness on ending gender violence against women and girls. The CBO started as part of a community youth structure under ActionAid Liberia's JEC project and was referred to as Gbarnga Boys Forum, which raised awareness on ending SGBV against women and girls and SRHR. Their passion for providing their services to the community has rewarded them with financial support from ActionAid Liberia to register as a CBO.
"We just ended our 16 Days of Activism that focused on ending violence against women and girls. Our objective is to continue with the awareness of ending violence against women and girls. We know that women and girls often face physical abuse in play and beyond, in schools, at home, and in public spaces. As Bong County opens its county meet, we are also telling our brothers and fathers to promote peace at the field of play, at home, and in all public spaces," said Florence Finda Gbondo, AAL's Monitoring and Evaluation Officer.
In Liberia, soccer is one of the most followed and supported sports. The County meet is a national event that brings together many people in the communities and is usually attended by large crowds. In the field of play, a lot of violence happens among spectators, and women become victims of violence. Those who cannot stand the pressure in public spaces end up preferring to stay home or listen through the radio which perpetuates exclusion. The presence of Gbarnga CBO during the County Meet opening enabled the organization to reach out more than 3000 people as women and girls including some men joined in the call to end SGBV.
"A big thanks to this organization for raising this awareness. Women often suffer from men's negative masculinity, and this awareness came at the right time and I embrace it. I want to thank the CBO for the tremendous work they continue to do," noted one of the young women during the county meet opening who preferred not to be named. .
Eugene Martins, the Gbarnga CBO President noted that with adequate resources available, the CBO can do much more to increase its campaign activities on SRHR and ending SGBV..
"We must talk to our peers if we want to change the narratives. Peer learning is one of our best strategies, and we will continue encouraging peaceful moments among the communities we stay in. Appreciation to AAL's continued technical support and funding from the Embassy of Sweden in Monrovia. This support has encouraged us to reach this far as a CBO," noted Eugene.
ActionAid Liberia is one of the leading organizations in Liberia on women's rights and gender equality with government and community recognition. We are known for a non-negotiable stance on women's rights and the most excluded in Liberian society.