Sport As A Tool

Sport is a powerful, simple, and universal means to stimulate real change among survivors of GBV in conflict and post-conflict areas. Sport programmes are universally applicable because they are based mainly on supportive, non-competitive elements and can consist of modules adapted according to the particular needs of the participants.Sport is an international language. “Its ability to cross cultures enables sport-related programmes to bridge social and ethnic divides.”[78] Sport tackles the development of participants on numerous levels: physical, cognitive, emotional, and social. It is a low-cost, high-impact tool for development. Well-designed sport programmes offer a safe and neutral environment.

On an individual level and with the help of sport survivors of GBV:

  •  learn to manage exclusion and dominance;
  •  control emotions and share power, space, and ideas with others;
  •  express unacceptable feelings in acceptable ways;
  •  cope with emotional traumas and instability;
  •  become re-sensitized to others’ needs;
  •  re-learn structure as it requires dedication, discipline, responsibility to self and others, and adherence to a set of rules of conduct and behaviour;
  •  get theopportunity to play and develop healthy peer relationships after violence and isolation;
  •  form friendships and intensify peer networks and to engage in more frequent and meaningful contact with peers;
  •  improve communication, cooperation, and negotiation skills on and off the playing field; and
  •  obtain a valuable sense of attachment as it provides girls with “their own space,” both physically and emotionally.

On a community level, sport:

  •  brings communities together and generates dialogue, uniting coaches, parents, community leaders, and team members in the pursuit of a common goal.
  •  presents no political undertones. “As a vehicle for feelings, it is particularly suited for reflecting, creating, and spreading the atmosphere of peace.”[79]

The following sport skill set is universal; these skills are transferrable from the sports field to the home to the community and transcend all contexts – non-conflict to conflict to post-conflict.

Sport skill set (transferrable skills):

  •  Tolerance
  •  Leadership
  •  Fair Play
  •  Trust   
  •  Honesty
  •  Sharing
  •  Respect for others
  •  Value of effort
  •  Connection with others
  •   Resiliency
  •   Team-building skills
  •   Communication skills
  •   Self-esteem 
  •   Empathy
  •   Promotion of health
  •   Reconciliation
  •   Problem-solving skills
  •   Moral development
  •   Sense of community
  •   Perseverance
  •   Organisational skills

Programmatic Tip

It is important that sport programmes are created and delivered with sensitivity to the circumstances at hand. It is crucial that treatment is delivered within the survivor’s cultural context. What this means is that a far greater understanding is required by those providing the programme to be aware of how a girl’s or woman’s cultural setting allows her – or doesn’t allow her – to emerge from the experience of gender-based violence.



How Sport Can Help Communities

Participation in sports is inherently linked to community development programmes– see Engaging Community.The values that sport enshrines – inclusion, teamwork, and personal...

[78]Leszek Cwik, Conflict Transformation and Peace Building through Football, EPU Research Papers, 06/08, Available at

[79]Ibid at  4