Eman frowns as the ball falls to the ground once again. Nevertheless, she gathers herself to begin her solo practice once more. Eman is a 12 year-old girl from Mafraq taking part in a four day, all-girls summer football camp at Amman’s Al Hussein Sport City. The harsh Jordanian summer sun beats down on the pitch as Eman’s teammates pause to take a water break. But Eman is determined to work on her skills and take advantage of the pitch while she has the chance.
In Jordan’s more socially conservative and resource-poor regions, access to the sport remains unequal in gender, with local football stadiums open only to males.
Throughout Jordan, children and adults alike view football as a healthy and enriching pastime. However, in Jordan’s more socially conservative and resource-poor regions, access to the sport remains unequal in gender, with local football stadiums open only to males. This lack of space for girls markedly limits their opportunities to gather, play sports, and make friends. Eman is directly affected by these limitations. Due to the lack of football facilities for girls, the last time Eman played football was two years ago in the street near her house. Despite this, Eman has grown up loving football and recalls playing with her friends wherever they could find space.
Jordan currently hosts a staggering 660,000 Syrian refugees, half of whom are below the age of 18. Eman lives in the northeastern governorate of Mafraq, which borders both Syria and Iraq and plays host to nearly 20% of all the Syrian urban refugees in Jordan, according to UNHCR’s August 2017 data. Such a significant population influx has resulted in a serious deterioration in the quality of education for both Jordanian and Syrian children alike, due to a strain on resources and shortened class periods to accommodate the growing number of students of all nationalities. These diminishing resources make it all the more difficult for teachers and community organizers to provide children, particularly girls, with opportunities for active, play-based learning.
Jordan currently hosts a staggering 660,000 Syrian refugees, half of whom are below the age of 18. Such a significant population influx has resulted in a serious deterioration in the quality of education for both Jordanian and Syrian children alike.
To address these profound deficits in education and opportunities for children like Eman to learn through play, Right To Play is currently implementing its Learning, Empowerment and Play (LEAP) Project, funded by the Government of Canada and carried out in partnership with Jordan’s Ministries of Education and Social Development. Eman, along with other girls from Mafraq, participated in LEAP’s four-day, all-girls summer camp, Let us hear your VOICE!, held in cooperation with the Jordan Football Association and the international organization Equal Playing Field, which works to cultivate female leadership through football and recently organized the world’s highest altitude football match, aiming to raise global awareness for their campaign.
During the camp, the girls successfully completed teamwork and leadership-building football activities, aimed at empowering girls in sport and in life. “I wasn’t good at football before,” Eman noted at the conclusion of the summer camp, “but now, I feel that I am ready for playing again.” Eman recalls learning a number of skills at camp, including goal-shooting skills. She also reflected on the positive relationships she built over the course of the summer camp. During the summer camp, Eman’s best friend inspired her with the “passion for football, bravery and strong character” that she showed - she even taught Eman how to juggle a football on her knees and feet!
During the camp, the girls successfully completed teamwork and leadership-building football activities, aimed at empowering girls in sport and in life.
Eman hopes that one day, she can be like her coaches, two of whom play for Jordan’s national team. Following in these coaches’ footsteps, Eman wants to work toward becoming a coach for other girls. “I dream that I will become a special football player and a coach for girls, [where] I can train and develop [their] abilities” she stated, adding that now, she has the power, energy, and skills to achieve her goal.
As her teammates finish their water break and begin walking back onto the pitch, Eman bounces the football from one knee, to the other, and back again. On her fourth try, the ball skims her knee and begins falling to her feet. But Eman swiftly shifts her foot under it. She kicks the ball in the direction of her friend, who is running back onto the pitch to join her. Eman’s face glows with pride at her new accomplishment, saying: "Now, I believe I can do anything."
Written by Carly Greespan
The LEAP Project, which targets communities in Mafraq, Irbid, and Zarqa, pairs substantive teacher and community trainings on play-based learning with child-centered play days, sports tournaments, and summer camps, such as Let us hear your VOICE! These events for children and youth provide them with hands-on opportunities to develop their capacities in teamwork, leadership, and tolerance. Through its innovative focus on teaching methods, child and youth empowerment, and the creation of active learning spaces with a particular focus on girls, the LEAP Project has significantly advanced Right To Play's mission to improve access to quality education for all children in Jordan, regardless of gender or nationality. The LEAP project is funded by Global Affairs Canada.