Juba, 6 April 2022: Breaking gender stereotypes while using the power of sports to spread peace and unity: these were the two main aims of the UNMISS Community Outreach Unit when they partnered with the United Nations Association of South Sudan, a non-governmental organisation, to hold a football tournament for women at the Buluk Football Ground in Juba. The event, held under the theme, ‘The contribution of sports to securing a peaceful and sustainable future for youth,’ coincides with the International Day of Sports for Development and Peace, which recognizes the positive influence that sports can have on the advancement of human rights, social and economic development around the world.

By Sara Pieraccioni

The people of South Sudan, the youngest nation in the world, can now aspire for a significant victory: the first women’s soccer championship. During its brief history, South Sudan has been afflicted by a fight for independence, a civil war, and ongoing upheaval.

Football has long been used to bring people together in war-torn regions and is now being used to address some of the gender injustices women in this central African country continue to suffer.

The South Sudan Football Association (SSFA) has decided to transform women’s football in 2020 through a four-year project called “Stars Unite”. For players aged 18 to 27 has been planned an organization with eight teams across the nation. Focused on four main objectives to be achieved by 2024, the strategy aims to create an inclusive and long-lasting future for women’s and girls’ football in South Sudan. Amin Francis, the SSFA President said: “The plan is to include everyone. We want to continue supporting more women in football through training more coaches, referees and also the new women’s national league, due to start in February 2021.” 

The main goals for this project are:

  • Training female coaches, administrators, and referees will increase the number of women playing soccer;
  • Getting the women’s national team to play in the international championships;
  • Increase by 70 percent the number of women who play football with local tournaments;
  • Develop a women’s football brand.

This year, the International Days of Sports for Development and Peace, that was on 6th of April, in South Sudan has been done in the capital, Juba, where two women teams enjoyed. This important day was organized by the United Nations Association of South Sudan and the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to promote equality and peace. Kasumi Nishigaya, director of the Gender Affairs Unit and senior gender adviser at the Unmiss said that “the soccer league for women and girls is directly linked to equal human rights in South Sudan. It’s not just a matter of equal participation in sports”.

Another important initiative, always linked to football, has been organized by Swiss Academy for Development (SA4D) and the Community Psychosocial Support Organisation (CPSO) that have launched the “Women on the Move” programme in the north of Uganda, where are based most refugee camps, in order to assist South Sudanese refugee women in overcoming the trauma of war by using a sport-based approach.


Cover image: Flickr