In Bududa district of eastern Uganda, an area plagued by poverty and natural disasters, girls and women face significant challenges that hinder their education and acquisition of life-sustaining skills. These individuals often come from families with limited financial resources, struggling to make ends meet through odd jobs.

Home to over 220,000 people, the average household earnings in the district amount to approximately $100 per year, highlighting the widespread poverty that grips the community. Moreover, it is noteworthy that most households in Bududa have six or seven children. This large family size exacerbates the financial strain on families, making it even more difficult to meet basic needs, including the cost of education, leaving the girls especially with limited access to quality schools and extracurricular opportunities.

Another concerning statistic is the average age of first birth for women in Bududa, which falls within the range of 14 to 16 years old. Early motherhood can have profound implications for young women, affecting their educational prospects, personal development, and long-term economic stability.

Recognizing the need to address this disparity, the Keep-the-Bududa-Girl-Child-Fit program (KEBUDGIP) was established. Its primary goal is to identify and nurture talents in girls and women from disadvantaged backgrounds. By providing them with opportunities to develop their skills, KEBUDGIP aims to break the cycle of poverty and empower young women to overcome the obstacles they face.

One avenue through which KEBUDGIP has pursued this mission is through soccer training programs. Across the district, trainers have set up seven soccer grounds, where women and girls have the opportunity to participate in competitive tournaments. Soccer serves as a powerful tool to empower and inspire. It equips young women and girls with the necessary tools to creatively explore, learn, practice, and improve. By engaging in the sport, they not only bridge the gap of limited opportunities but also develop cognitive and social skills crucial for their overall development.

Since 2020, KEBUDGIP has organized an annual Christmas tournament, bringing together talented women and girls from various local community soccer groups. The tournament not only showcases their unique soccer talents but also provides them with valuable experience on the pitch. Furthermore, it serves as a platform to strengthen social ties, promote ideas of peace, fraternity, non-violence tolerance, and justice. The success of these tournaments has been remarkable, as four schools from Bududa district for the first time qualified to play in the Uganda Secondary School Sports Association (USSSA) Bugishu regional tournament held in Mbale city. Additionally, three KEBUDGIP teams participated in the 2022 FUFA Women’s League fourth division organized by the District Football Association (DFA).

These achievements stand as a testament to the transformative power of prioritizing women’s sports and tailoring training to their talents and personalities. By nurturing their strengths and providing opportunities for growth, we create a more inclusive and empowering educational environment. The impact extends beyond the soccer pitch, empowering these women and girls to excel in various aspects of life.

Global trends:

To fully understand the significance of prioritizing women’s sports, let us consider global trends. Across the world, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of gender equality in sports. Women’s sports have experienced a surge in popularity and support, with increasing investment and resources dedicated to their development. This is not a mere coincidence but rather a response to the numerous benefits associated with women’s participation in sports.

Studies have shown that engaging in sports enhances physical and mental well-being, boosts self-confidence, improves academic performance, and instils valuable life skills such as teamwork, leadership, and perseverance. In fact, research conducted by the Women’s Sports Foundation found that girls who participate in sports are more likely to graduate from high school and have higher self-esteem compared to those who do not.

In Uganda specifically, there is a growing recognition of the importance of women’s sports. Efforts to promote gender equality and empower women through sports have gained momentum. The success stories of KEBUDGIP and other initiatives demonstrate the immense potential that lies within women and girls when provided with equal opportunities.

By prioritizing women’s sports and tailoring training to their personalities and talents, we pave the way for a brighter future. We empower girls and women to break free from the constraints of poverty and discrimination. Let us embrace this transformative approach, supporting and investing in women’s sports, not just in Bududa district, but across the globe.

About the author:

Michael Balibali

Michael Balibali is  a freelance activist who is hard of hearing and an active member of the Uganda Federation of the Hard of Hearing (UFHOH). As a passionate advocate for disability rights, he dedicates himself to championing the rights and inclusion of individuals with disabilities. Michael’s commitment extends to his role as a youth leader, where he takes on the responsibility of empowering and inspiring fellow young people to become agents of positive change in their communities. He holds a BSc. in Construction Management from Makerere University.