Right To Play/Canada/the team/Bagwaneza Esther
 

Access to sport and play changed my life

Bagwaneza Esther, Junior Coach, Right To Play Uganda
April 3, 2009

I use to think girls would never perform any other role apart from cooking, weaving baskets and getting prepared to be married off.  Now, working with a team of other volunteer Coaches, I lead activities for more than 30 children in my community, the Nakivale refugee settlement in Uganda. I have worked as a Coach for more than three years and never think of stopping. Sport and play brought me into the limelight, empowered me as a girl and allowed me to take control of my health and my education.

I was born in Burundi, a neighboring country to Uganda, as the only girl in a family of seven children. In the Kirundi community where I was raised, girls are considered a source of wealth and are expected to perform domestic chores. In 1998, our family home was attacked and we were forced to migrate to Uganda in search of peace. I had lost the glory of going to school. Everything was a nightmare, until sport and play was introduced to my community.

That introduction came through Right To Play programs at the refugee settlement. I was interested in getting involved in Right To Play activities because of the values promoted by the organization such as inclusion, respect and leadership. Above all, sport and play was a source of unity for the various tribes in my community.

I volunteered to play with the children even before I was enrolled in Right To Play’s program. I always participated in organising special events and special play days.  It was during the Day of the African Child celebrations in Nakivale that a staff member invited me to join Right To Play as a Junior Coach, having noticed my interest in sport and play. I was very happy to be selected to work as a Junior Coach.

“I credit my involvement with Right To Play for improving many aspects of my life. Not only do I feel empowered as a girl, but I also feel I have sufficient knowledge about HIV and AIDS to advise my peers and friends not to be pushed into certain behaviours that can expose them to contracting HIV and AIDS.”

Bagwaneza Esther, Junior Coach

In being a Junior Coach, I learned that children have the potential to learn and can transform their societies. Children are good listeners, are always happy to learn, are patient with situations and have a spirit to forgive. Respect, focus in life and visionary leadership has formed my life.

Like many girls in my community, my education was interrupted by the war in my home country. When we came to Uganda, my brothers were given the first opportunity [to attend school].  I was left at home to prepare food for them upon their return from school.  But I was able to return to school when I was offered a bursary to study at one of the schools in the camp while I led children in Right To Play activities. At last, I got the opportunity to embrace education.

I credit my involvement with Right To Play for improving many aspects of my life. Not only do I feel empowered as a girl, but I also value the education I received from participating in Right To Play’s Live Safe Play Safe training.  Live Safe Play Safe, one of Right To Play’s many program resources, focuses on disease awareness and prevention, and healthy behaviours and attitudes around HIV and AIDS.  With the recent training, I feel I have sufficient knowledge about HIV and AIDS to advise my peers and friends not to be pushed into certain behaviours that can expose them to contracting HIV and AIDS.

Sport and play made a turning point in life. I have gained a lot of trust from children, community members, parents and my teachers. With support from Right To Play supervisors and Coaches, I feel I now have the power to change my community.