MTC hosted two girls' soccer tournaments to celebrate the 2022 International Day of the Girl Child. The events, held in Mhondoro-Ngezi and Chimanimani districts, which happened on 22 and 29 October, brought together hundreds of girls from within the two communities in a moment of spirited competition and performances that centered around the lives of girls living in rural areas. In all, over 240 girls directly participated in the soccer tournament in Nhedziwa while a further 100 played at Gavhunga in Mashonaland West Province. A further 400 although not playing benefitted from the tournament as they acted as volunteers, participated in the Nhangas and girls mentorship circles, and other interactive side sessions which were led by tournament partners.
The tournaments aimed to not only raise the previously mentioned advocacy tools but also to foster community engagement and build partnerships with schools, communities, businesses, the private sector, and individuals around shared objectives of girls’ empowerment using sport. They brought together the communities for a day in the spirit of Ubuntu for the girl child. The event was not only about sport in itself but the girls also had “Nhanga” sessions - safe spaces and workshops that encourage peer learning, and experience sharing and this was building towards the second main aim of the tournaments which was “To build girls’ self-esteem, leadership, teamwork, and life skills for girls”.
With MTC taking the lead role the tournaments were a collaborative effort between partners and sponsors including DreamBig, Keeper Goals, ConnectHer, The Ministry of Youth, Women Affairs, and The Zimbabwe Police Service, Social Impact 360 and Siboniwe Trust.
The first tournament was held at Gavhunga Secondary School in Mhondoro Ngezi district on 22 October. The girl's soccer clubs including Nyika Queens, MTC Hot Peppers, Mupereki All Stars and Dondoshava Kickers, Ngezi Busters gathered at Gavhunga school where MTC had put together a diverse group of resource persons and relevant stakeholders from the public health sector, law enforcement, agriculture, and education to share with the girls' topics as varied as drug abuse, the dangers of early child marriages, safe adolescence, the benefits of sports participation, sexual rights, and reproductive health as well as career opportunities. Traditional leadership present included village heads Mr. Willard Zirere and Rainos Rereza, while Councillor Farai Ruturi from local government graced the occasion.
The same format saw over 10 girls’ soccer clubs gather at Nhedziwa in Chimanimani district a week later, on 29 October, in a belated celebration. MTC Sirens FC, Bright Minds Academy FC, Blue Dragons FC, Bumba FC, Chiramba Queens, Mutambara Girls High, and Rowa FC battled it out in the senior category. Rozaria Memorial Girls FC of Murehwa were unable to travel to defend their floating shield. In the end, Mutambara Girls High emerged champions, beating Rowa FC in the championship game. It is key to note that the matches had female FIFA-accredited referees and match officials.
The Nhedziwa tournament was graced by customary leaders such as village heads, elected council members, and headmen. Chief Mutambara and Mr Tichafa Chibanda the former Chief Mangwende were the guests of honour. The latter is one of the founding members of the African Council of Traditional Leaders (COTLA) which is a continental body dedicated to the elimination of child marriages. During his keynote speech, Mr. Chibanda commended the initiative and that he would be promoting the tournaments as a promising practice to be scaled up and replicated across the continent. In his prepared remarks at the end of the tournament, Chief Mutambara stressed the value of active sports participation in instilling life-long values such as discipline, teamwork, focus, and good citizenship. As he handed over awards to the winners, the chief identified himself as a champion in the area of fighting child marriage in his jurisdiction
Some key highlights included the Football Ambassadors of Zimbabwe who drove the full 943km from their headquarters in Harare and brought famous names from Zimbabwean men’s football, including Dynamos FC legend Justin Majabvi and current Herentals FC star midfielder Dereck Chitsanzara. FAZ ambassadors also held empowerment sessions on the sidelines of the Nhedziwa tournament bringing the message of eliminating illicit drug use from sports. In the fun-filled Q&A sessions, Girls and Goals, led by Ms. Farirai Gumbonzvanda and Ms. Vimbiso Deka, engaged adolescent girls on a range of topics including safe dating, adolescence challenges, social and emotional growth, and career pathways. In Gavhunga a major highlight was the cultural performers who entertained guests with traditional dances such as muchongoyo and mbende.
In her message shared live to all attendees, MTC founder and president Maka Chikowero praised the girls for braving harmful social norms and overcoming challenges like lack of sports equipment, less-than-ideal training facilities, and the absence of trained coaches to participate in the tournament. “By your presence and participation today, you have demonstrated your commitment to uplifting both yourselves as girls and your community. I am honoured to be able to connect with you and impact lives in this way. I see you and I hear you. We are fighting for an end to child marriages and for the right to education. Let’s keep the fire burning. See you all in 2023!”
The tournament returns in October 2023 with Gavhunga’s MTC Hot Peppers FC and Mutambara Girls High defending their titles.
For more footage from the tournaments, Click HERE