March 8th is International Women’s Day. A holiday celebrated around the globe and, ironically, it is little known in America. This year my fellow neighbor volunteers and I decided to build upon the festivities that were already being planned in our provincial capitol of Diébougou. We put together a girls soccer tournament which might seems ordinary to you all but is outrageous here. During planning, most people scoffed citing the “widely known fact” that girls don’t play soccer…. you can imagine how that might have made me feel.
For the mini-tournament, we brought in teams from 4 different middle schools in the province. There were 2 games in the morning and a championship match in the afternoon between the mornings winners. One of the morning games and the final both went to penalty kicks, real nail biters. The games drew huge crowds of men, women and children. For some of the girls it was their first time in the provincial capital. They were just so excited to get the chance to play. Unfortunately our girls were disappointed to lose their first game. But they were all happy to get lunch served to them and all participants went home with a t-shirt!
After the games, there was a game scheduled between the female nurses and teachers of Diébougou. My neighbor Emily who is affiliated with a local primary school and I were asked to play, seeing how I am with the clinic. So we took the field, barefoot and in our matching outfits, on opposing teams. Looking around the field after we played (nurses won, of course), I realized that I had just played in probably the most well attended game of my life, there were well over 1000 people there. Throughout the rest of the night, men (and a few women) expressed their shock to me that I could play soccer. Some would say, “you play like the boys can,” to which I would say “no, I play like everyone can if you give them the chance.” It was probably the best way I could have thought to teach Burkinabé that girls too can play soccer. Great way to celebrate International Women’s Day.