By Amira Qattan, Programmes Coordinator at Generations For Peace

Sport has the power to change the world; it is a fundamental right, a powerful tool to strengthen social ties and promote sustainable development and peace and well as solidarity and respect.” As a Programmes Coordinator at Generations For Peace, I have seen the power of sport first-hand, and in honour of the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace 2021, I want to share with you three key ‘aha moments’ I have learned about the power of sport whilst helping to oversee the Sport for Prevention of Violent Extremism Programme, implemented by Generations For Peace in partnership with the US Embassy Amman.

  1. Our Youth Hold the Future; Sport Can Allow Them to Feel Empowered to Take a Hold if it

Youth participants engage in a Sport For Peace activity, designed to highlight their leadership abilities and empower them to feel more confident

The first half of this lesson is not an overused line, but the truth! Whilst training our youth programme volunteers, we immediately sensed how eager and ready they were to take the steering wheel and create real impact in their communities, and they were curious and excited to use sport to do so. Sport is flexible and promotes collaboration and inclusion. Using sport to lead change allows for the maximisation of interactions and synergy, whilst simultaneously providing youth with the valuable experience of being trusted to demonstrate their leadership abilities and responsible citizenship in their own community, empowers them to take on more in their community outside of the programme. When our youth are equipped with these essential skills, they are more confident, and this will help them to lead and shine brightly – both on and off of the field.

As my colleague Aya Albadarneh, a Programmes Officer at Generations For Peace puts it, “We thought it would be a challenge to deliver that training especially amidst the current situation globally, but our youth were resilient, flexible, and ready to learn. Believing in the power of sport, 45 young and bright volunteer leaders eagerly joined us to be trained remotely to elevate, impart, and master skills needed for them to implement the programme in vulnerable communities in Jordan. Working with youth has always been an inspiration to me; the impact of their activities in their communities creates momentum, and their spirit is what keeps us going!”

  1. Sport has the Unique Power to Bring People Together

“I thought we were just playing a regular game of football. Instead, we did activities that help build acceptance amongst us participants. It was really nice!” – Khaled Ibrahim, Youth Participant (age 18) shared during one of the programme sessions

I have always believed in the power of sport as a tool to establish world peace. It really does bring people together! Sometimes all it takes for a person to realise that someone is actually just like them is to kick the ball to that teammate or an interactive game that brings them together; any and all differences do not stand a chance in the way of sport, acceptance, and resilience! This proved true time and time again throughout our interactions and work with the volunteers and youth participants. Throughout my time with GFP, I have seen the impact first-hand, and this only motivates me to keep doing what we are doing!

Inter-community exchanges through sport, step by step, foster a sense of belonging and collective identity, self-identification with one’s community and promotes diversity as a strength. Our activities and sport tournaments open a door for youth to engage the broader community, interact with participants between communities, and demonstrate how sport can be used to establish peace both locally and internationally.

  1. Sport Highlights Positive Role Models Creating Positive Imprints in Our Communities

Sport showcases positive roles models, and inclusion and engagement of these role models amongst youth participants and  volunteers are key to igniting change. These role models show first-hand the importance of displaying and demonstrating values of tolerance, empathy, non-violent problem-solving skills, establishing an increased sense of civic agency, and encouraging positive civic engagement in both youth participants and members of the broader community.

Youth participants smile for a photo after a Sport for PVE session in Russeifa, Jordan

This was evident immediately when the programme sessions and sport activities kicked-off, especially in Russeifa, Jordan. Youth participant Layan Talla’a shared how much of a positive impact the youth volunteers made on younger individuals almost instantly, stating, “My first-day went really well, to be honest, because of the leaders! They were so encouraging and welcomed me into the sport activities. I learned so much!”

It is vital to recognise the role of positive role models in implementing sport for peace activities because it has a tremendous long-term imprint on the younger population, as well as the community as a whole.

Our youth hold the future, and our young bright leaders will advance efforts to foster greater understanding, tolerance, and acceptance of diversity as a strength in our communities. This is a reminder for all of us on the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace that sport can empower them to do so!

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