Hope springs eternal
Recently my musings on optimism were shared on damesnet’s illustrious pages. Now it stands to reason that you can’t be optimistic if you don’t have hope. And while there are some truly dreadful things happening on the world stage, every time I come across a ‘good news’ story it does fill me with hope. And I’m always on the lookout for positive stories about the lives of women and girls.
One such story comes from a refugee camp in the Lebanon where thousands of Palestinian and Syrian refugees are living in extremely tough conditions. The global charity Right to Play set up an education centre at the camp, which included setting up football coaching for girls. Religious leaders in the camp community tried to put a halt to this, including banning female coaches. They thought that football was not for girls and they should not be seen playing, even in their highly modest football kit.
The head coach in the Beirut area for Right to Play’s sports and humanitarian assistance project, Sarah El Jizi, had a good idea. There was a space behind the education centre that could not be seen by passers-by. Right to Play renovated it and created a football pitch for females to play unobserved. It has been a huge success – and the footballing girls have had their hope restored.
Staying with football, this week saw a major achievement for women in Iran, who, for the first time in decades, were allowed into a stadium in Teheran to watch the World Cup qualifier. Yes, they were segregated from the men. Yes, they were watched over by 150 women police officers. But they saw the game live for the first time instead of having to watch it on a screen at home. The clerics who run Iran had considered that it would be harmful for women to see partially clad male footballers on the pitch and hear the shouting and swearing from the male fans. Pressure from FIFA helped force their hand, but tragically it did not stop the suicide of a young female fan who had dressed up as a man to attend a previous match but had been discovered by officials. She was facing a jail sentence so set herself on fire last week. My hope is that her that her grieving family will see regulatory changes that might mean her death was not in vain.
If for whatever reasons things aren’t looking so good and you want a steady stream of such stories you can always tune in to the Good News Network for inspiration. I have to say that some of their offerings are a little odd, but they are catering for a huge range of tastes.
Returning once more to the subject of footballing girls breaking barriers of gender and traditional culture, never forget the wonderful Gurinder Chadha’s film ‘Bend it Like Beckham’. Now there’s a film that ends full of hope. It must be time to watch it again.