Sports leadership program ends

A 10-week sports leadership program that was tailor-made for girls in primary school has ended in Vaimauga District.

The “She Hits” program was only run in the third term of this year and targeted primary schools and community groups in Vaimauga district, thanks to funding from the U.S. Embassy in New Zealand and the support of the Ministry of Education Sports and Culture [M.E.S.C.].

The leadership program was run by the organisation Apelu Sports with its founder Gabrielle Apelu telling Samoa Observer in an interview that sports is a development tool, which can be used to address gender equality, health and wellbeing, and quality education.

The goals of the leadership program align with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals [S.D.G.] 3, 4 and 5.

"It’s been really good and we have had massive success now that the program has wound up," Apelu said.  

"The result and the data we’ve collected as well as the changes we have observed over the past 10 weeks within the girls show that it is a much-needed area that needs to be emphasised for young girls so that they can create a better future for themselves. 

"It focuses on self-confidence and self-reliance which addresses and identifies their voice and allows that voice to come forward, so that they can keep themselves safe and that they can be more informed as they head into their future years.”

The "She Hits" program is a strand of the M.E.S.C which initially catered for Year 7-8 girls as they were considered the leaders of their school.

According to Ms Apelu, Apelu Sports is also looking to the grassroots level to identify gender-based violence behaviour, commonly called bullying in primary school. 

It will focus on both girls and boys so that they [Apelu Sports Team] can strengthen national efforts, given that Ms Apelu was recently selected as a member of the Civil Society Organisation - National Reference Group.

"Sports are also doing their part in eliminating violence against women and girls," Ms Apelu emphasised.

Awards were also presented to girls from different primary schools at the end of the program based on three different categories. 

"Our leadership award was awarded to the girl who we had identified out of the 10 weeks as a leader not only for herself but also for her peers, someone who not only speaks up for themselves but also for others," Ms Apelu added.

"The other category was ‘story of change’ award which was in support of the literacy efforts by M.E.S.C., and this was graded on the girls writing proficiency about how the ‘She Hits’ program has impacted or has made changes to their daily lives in the past 10 weeks. 

"The third category was the resilience award and that went to those who have been victims of bullying but have found her voice and her self-confidence to stand up for herself."

Amongst the girls award recipients was a young student of Falefitu Primary, who was a special participant of the program who had autism and had been attending the program since it had started. 

"Jay is autistic so he’s a child with a disability and ever since we started our program he turned up the first day and he never left," Ms Apelu said.

"Not a lot of people are aware or knowledgeable enough about disabilities to be inclusive and we are an inclusive organisation and it's part of our mandate to ensure that we teach the girls how to be inclusive of people with disabilities. 

"Having him with us taught the girls how to be patient, have the courage to speak up for him and each other and just to kind."

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