This International Women’s Day Sierra Leone sees the launch of the CBF Girls’ Football League. With a parade and open day in the country’s four main regions, 250 girls and young women will be preparing for the start of their football season for a second year. However this league is not just about what happens on the pitch.
The CBF part of the CBF Girls Football league refers to the Craig Bellamy Foundation, a charity created, with the help of UNICEF, to enable children and young people to reach their true potential through sport and education. The basic rules of the CBF leagues are fairly simple, to play football, you have to go to school. The UN World Development Index currently has the average time spent in school by a young person in Sierra Leone down at 2.9 years, causing a huge hindrance in moving the country out of its current positioning at 180 in the Index (It’s out of 187). Although gender isn’t referred to in the Index, it’s also pretty easy to conclude that young women would be lucky to get the average 2.9 years, often having to leave school early, if attending at all. We complain about a lot of things over here in the UK, but a right to an education that lasts over 3 years isn’t one of them. An education enables a person to face the world, make informed decisions and become leaders and role models, some of the main principles at the heart of the Craig Bellamy foundation.
Sierra Leone also falls down the UN WDI thanks to its issues with gender inequality, something the CBF has chosen to deal with not just from letting women have their own league and providing them with an education, but also by educating the boys both in the classroom and on the field that girls are entitled to the same rights that they are. Furthermore, as part of a recent investment by the English premier League, this year both the Boys and Girls leagues will have female referees, coaches and regional co-ordinators all of which have been trained by the Foundation. These women are among the first in Sierra Leone to reach these positions and act as role models for young women throughout the country as well as challenging the gender roles of their community.
Through a simple (but beautiful) game the CBF has built a power house of social development, using education and fun to generate a feeling of self-worth, less gender discrimination and ambition in the new generation of Sierra Leone.
Although we’re sure Mr Bellamy himself earns a pretty penny, the charity can’t just rely on him. There are 24 teams on the CBF Girls League youth development programme, many of which could benefit greatly from support and sponsorship. If you are interested in sponsoring a club and making a huge difference please visit : craigbellamyfoundation.org/sponsor-club