Association of Kigali Women in Sports (AKWOS)

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Association of Kigali Women in Sports (AKWOS)

Project Stage:
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

In a country where patriarchy and genocide have historically marginalized women, Felicite Rwemarika is using female participation in football to build self-confidence and social support among poor, rural women in Rwandan society; and enable them to improve their lives and further the development of their communities. Additionally, she is leveraging the structure of teams and tournaments that she has created in order to facilitate women’s educational and economic empowerment.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

With over 60% of the population living on less than one dollar a day, poverty is a significant societal challenge for Rwanda (and many other African countries). Additionally, 70% of Rwandan women live in rural areas, which are the hardest hit by poverty and its related challenges; and a staggering 62% of female-headed rural households live below the poverty line. These numbers suggest that women in rural areas are overwhelmingly afflicted by poverty. This is a common scenario across many African countries, but Rwanda’s recent history makes the nature of female poverty unique. Now, just eighteen years after the genocide that saw ethnic tensions escalate into a massacre within a matter of days, Rwanda is still recovering from the psychological wounds that were inflicted during this period. Women were uniquely affected as thousands where widowed; raped (estimated at between 250 000 and 500 000 women and girls over the 100 day period); and infected with HIV and AIDS among a host of other sexually transmitted diseases (70% of all sexually assaulted women were infected with HIV/AIDS). These women were then left to deal with the consequences of these experiences with little practical knowledge or assistance on these matters. The resulting trauma and low self-confidence pushed most women into isolation in rural areas, where a majority of them continue to live today. This matter was further exacerbated by the deeply entrenched patriarchal culture, which defined the role of women as that of a follower and submissive home caretaker. Thus, according to cultural standards, women were not expected to play active leadership roles in their own lives, families or communities. This means that women- especially those marginalized during the genocide - did not have the skills, or societal support necessary to improve their circumstances. Post-genocide economic activity has largely been limited to male participation in urban areas. Felicite was one of a handful of women who had the skills and courage to venture into business so soon after the 1994 genocide. The general lack of economic opportunity, especially in rural areas indicated that women might be locked into poverty without the societal framework to provide the skills and support needed for them to improve their livelihoods. Consequentially, most women have resigned themselves to subsistence farming as their primary income source. This is the status quo that Felicite sought to challenge and change through her work with the Association of Kigali Women in Sports.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Felicite is enabling Rwandan women to gain full social and economic citizenship by engaging them in the male dominated sport of football. She is using their participation in this sport to challenge the cultural and historical status quo of these women, and demonstrate their ability to improve their lives and develop their communities. The spirit of teamwork across ethnic divides within these football teams creates the self-confidence, support and social capital needed for women to address key social challenges of poverty, healthcare and education for themselves and their families. She has transformed Rwanda’s social structure by making women’s football a widely accepted sport, and influenced major policy reform in government to further entrench sports for women and girls in and outside of formal education institutions. Felicite has understood that in addition to sport being a confidence and tolerance builder, these teams can also serve as an important entry point for women’s education and economic empowerment. She is now leveraging the architecture that she has spent over a decade building- the hundreds of female football teams and tournaments across the country- to create educational and economic opportunities for poor rural women. Every sporting tournament is transformed into an educational experience by bringing in institutions and individuals related to various topic areas. Additionally, Felicite is currently organizing the football teams into farming cooperatives to engage women in agri-business; thereby creating systems through which women can raise their communities out of poverty. Thus, this idea uses sports not only as a confidence builder, but as an entry point to equip rural women with the skills and support needed to improve their livelihoods and communities.