How you can report on women working for their empowerment around the world

December 15, 2009

The empowerment of women around the world is a movement that reaches into every geographic region and social class around the world. Media attention is focused on the role of women in development through such books as Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. However, young reporters are bringing to light stories about challenges to women around the world and their courageous acts to take their rightful places. [Read more]

The trailblazing women athletes of Lingira Island, Uganda

December 15, 2009

by Michelle Mazzeo

Watch this movie about the trailblazing athletes of Lingira Island, Uganda :

As you can see from the video, this team has a lot to bring to Lingira Island. Sadly, the setbacks are far from small. Violence against women is an epidemic on the island. Almost every girl at the island school has engaged in an illegal relationship, been raped or forced into prostitution. Some girls are married off young before being able to finish school. The banality of violence against women is also reflected in the fact that hardly any perpetrators are sent to prison. This in part has to do with woman’s low status in society: most girls and women do not even report violent acts committed against them. In fact, acts of violence against women have become so normal that some mothers have been known to sell their daughters as prostitutes in exchange for a small amount of sugar.

Since this movie was made, EDGE found out that one of the girls on the team was recently defiled. Defilement can mean anything from rape to an inappropriate relationship with a minor. In this particular defilement case, the community raised the funds to send the man to jail and get the girl tested for rape. Because the girl’s family hid her for 5 days after the incident, they were unable to gather conclusive evidence. Regardless, corruption enabled the perpetrator to return to the island after only a couple weeks.

Now is a time to use the foundation that LGFC has created to spur social change against the widespread violence against women. This semester, EDGE interns on the Women’s Empowerment Research Team have been researching methods for making the LGFC a more effective route for empowering young girls. We must urge the community not to give up on investing in its girls– not to fear change. Instead, EDGE is encouraging them to take a firm stance against all of the incidents of violence against girls and women.

The LGFC girls are the future– they must be given opportunity and a voice today in order to change their world for the next generation.

The girls of Lingira need support more than ever, as one of their only productive outlets is being threatened by the violence against women epidemic on the island. We can all make a difference in this situation, by supporting the creation of EDGE Project’s new, comprehensive and sustainable strategic plan that will ensure, through checks and balances, that football is a safe and productive outlet for girls on Lingira Island. See our website for updates:


December 15, 2009

by Michelle Mazzeo

I came to Uganda with EDGE Project‐-a group from the University of Wisconsin‐ Madison that enables students to carry out detailed research with professors on campus and subsequently implement small projects in partner communities in the developing world. When I arrived at Lingira Island in the middle of Lake Victoria, I had no idea that I would be working full‐time as a soccer coach to a group of young ladies.

Before the soccer team began, I spent over a month just getting to know the Lingira island community. I found that most people spoke broken English, if any, and had preconceived notions about why I chose to come to their small and remote island. It was difficult to get to know people well in such a short period of time. However, the rapport I built simply from trying helped me later when I decided to report on this story. One evening I invited myself to play soccer with some of the men from the island. After only a short period of time, I found the men and boys were shocked that I was able to kick the ball in the right direction and I was famous within a matter of hours.

Of course, all this attention just for playing some soccer did not sit right with me. Girls should be encouraged to play the beautiful game just as boys are. Once I did some background research with the schoolteachers and other community members, I discovered that girls were much too busy cleaning, cooking, gardening, tending to children and caring for their family members to enjoy a refreshing and fun game of soccer. I also learned that many of the girls engaged in prostitution, premature sexual relationships or were victims of rape, which is extremely common in the community.

I immediately began to work with a young native of the island, Tony, to put together the first girls soccer team. Of course, the team was a complete novelty to the island and watching it fall into place was an inspiration to everyone. However, working with young, vulnerable girls in a marginalized community such as this one, requires a lot of care and close monitoring. I depended almost exclusively on the male coaches to translate when I wanted to communicate with the girls about filming them. If I were to document a story like this again, I would try harder to find a woman as a translator. In general, when reporting on a situation that challenges social norms of girls and women, asking a woman to translate is probably a good idea.

I would also make my goals and objectives in documenting a story like this extremely clear to the participants and community, all of whom are already keeping a close eye on the activities of any outsider. The more the locals understand your purpose, the more likely they will be to help move along your project.