Q: Cynthia, we are very happy that you took some time to give us an interview for the Sports and Business for Social Change online resource. This platform will be used by different multiplicators in the field of sport and development and also by girls who want to participate in sport and development projects. So we are lucky that we are having you here as an expert in field of sport and development who can share her knowledge as the Boxgirls Kenya Program Director with us.
Could you please tell us something about your person?
My names are Cynthia Coredo and I am passionate about community development and involvement of girls and young women in leadership and to be agent of positive social change in their communities. I have been involved in community development work since I was 12 years old. I always believe that I am a global agent of positive social change and my ideas and time are great asset to changing my community. At the age of 18 years old I volunteered as a teacher in two informal schools in the urban slums of Nairobi, giving back to the community. My work involved mentoring young leaders in the school, teaching and monitoring the student’s academic progress. I have also been involved in community development through sports by involving girls as agent of the change for the past five years, working with Boxgirls Kenya in demonstrating the impact of using boxing as tool to tackle issues affecting girls and young women in the marginalized communities.
Q: Where do you live? What are your personal main interests?
I currently live in Nairobi, Kenya. My personal main interests are travelling, playing different sport games, volunteering, organizing events that bring people together for essential cause i.e. fundraising for needy students, photography and cooking.
Q:What organization are you working for? What are the key aspects, programmes and mission of your organization?
I work with Boxgirls Kenya as a program Manager. My organization, Box Girls Kenya, is special because it uses boxing as a tool to tackle issues affecting women and girls in the marginalized communities. Young women and girls have control over their lives and are taking part in changing their lives positively and positively transforming their communities. The Key Aspects of Boxgirls are leadership, participation and decision making by girls and women, as well as equal partnership between different sectors for social change. As well it is important that women and girls know best their challenges and what they need to change their situation. For us boxing is a powerful strategy for empowering girls and women. We have different kinds of programmes: Sport promotion, education program, leadership and mentorship programme, sexual and health program, girls motivating community building program and economic empowerment programme. Sport promotion is our core program. We involve girls aged 8-18 years old in weekly training on boxing so as to gain self defense and other elements that go with sport. Then we have our education program, here activities that are carried out involve computer studies, access to office library for the girls within the program, and life skills education. The books have improved the girls writing and presentation skills. In addition, the
organization also conducts weekly life skills training to girls in schools within the marginalized communities. Our mission is to create a world where women and girls lead dignified lives in secure communities where they are valued as equal members and have control over their sexuality and economic development.
Q: Since when does your organization exist?
Boxgirls organization was formed in 2007 and later registered in 2008 as a community based organization. Boxgirls Organization has been in existence for more than five years.
Q: Which are the target groups you are working with?
Boxgirls organization directly works with girls and young women age 8-23 years old in the marginalized communities of Kenya.
Q: What were the reasons for you to work for this organization?
I started working with Boxgirls as a volunteer. The reasons for working with Boxgirls Kenya were because of the passion I had working for the community and mostly the vulnerable people in the marginalized communities. I grew in the same community where boxgirls work and I was able to identify with the issues and challenge that that girls face every day in the marginalized
communities. As a young girl I lost my parents when I was young and I had no mentors around who could guide and direct me in life. Life became my teacher and I had to be strong, principled and fight against all odds to be a girl that has a dream and is focused to achieving it. When I was called upon by Alfred Analo to volunteer in teaching computer skills to the young women in
boxgirls, I was happy since I knew it was the start of working, mentoring and equipping a generation of young leaders who will positively transform their communities. Every time I looked at the girls and heard their stories I always saw myself and I knew that they were going to make it, believe in themselves and focus on their dreams and not their dusts.
Q: Why do you think it is important to deal with these topics that your organization is working with?
It is important in order to challenge gender stereotypes that is creating barriers for development and change within our communities. Also to impact the community and transform it positively for example by changing the community systems on women leadership.
Q: You experienced that sport could work as a catalyst for development, why do you think sport is particularly suitable to achieve social change?
I believe that sport is one of the tools that can be used for effective communication. During a sporting activity an issue that people are not comfortable to raise in a normal set up can be raised in a sporting activity through different sporting skills hence creating a platform for understanding the issues better and finding ways to solving them. Sports create one in a multiple of many. People of different backgrounds come together and once they play the sport they become one not looking at their backgrounds but how they can better score and enjoy the sport. Also sport is universal language. People may have different systems and rules of doing things and how they perceive life but sport creates one language that is understood by all creating
avenues of acceptances and respect for all.
Q: Do you think the idea of sport and development could work for people of different ages, genders and social backgrounds? If, why do you think so?
Sports works for people of all ages since it is a universal language and can be understood by all. The rules and system in sport creates room for all to have fun, grow and work as a team.
Q: Do some of your programmes have any effects on the whole community? Which effects?
Yes, the boxing programme and the Girls Motivating Community building programme. These programmes involve the community participation and support to the girl’s involvement in positively changing their communities. One effect is that the community learns to dissociate boxing with male aggression and sees it as a tool to empower and instill confidence and strengths in individuals, whether they are male or female. Another effect is that Parents and community stakeholders are responsible and are coming up with approaches that will create platforms for girls and women to effectively lead and influence positive social change within their communities.
Q: Why is your organization using boxing as a sport to address girls? What is special about boxing as an empowerment tool?
Boxgirls uses boxing to teach self defence skills to girls and young women living in the marginalized communities. Boxing is an important and innovative tool, to reach objectives of female empowerment and social change. Boxing stresses speed and accuracy, rhythm and good footwork. Since it is a sport that makes one fit and fast it can create positive change for girls growing up in urban and rural areas of Kenya, arid and other African countries.
Q: Why could sport be particularly empowering for women and girls?
Sport is empowering for women and girls since it gives women and girls the platform to voice out issues affecting their lives in a safe space where they are also entitled in coming up with solution for their issues. It also promotes women and girls leadership. Girls are able to be coaches and captains of their teams. Sport can breaks the barriers that revolve around tradition and culture on women leadership and involvement in male dominated sport.
Q: To what extend can sport contribute to the goal of changing gender stereotypes?
Sports create a room for female to participate in male dominated sport like boxing. It can also create opportunities for women to be leaders, for example being C´coaches and managers in male dominated teams.
Q: Do you think supporting the sport-programmes can also be a way to reduce gender-based violence?
Yes supporting sport-programmes can also be a way to reduce gender- based violence i.e boxing has enabled women and girls to learn self defense skills.
Q: What are the reactions to your programmes? How did people react in the beginning and how is it today? Did you notice changes over time?
Currently there is a lot of ownership from the community especially parents in regard to the programme. The community members have seen a great change in their girl’s life in terms of confidence and their leadership. The community perception on boxing has changed; the parents and community members viewed boxing sport as a game of violence and if their girls
were involved they were all going to be rude and violent. Involving the parents and the community leaders in most of our activities and meetings changed their perception of young women and girls involvement in boxing. They started bring in their girls to the program, participating in parents meeting and advocating for girls leadership in the community.
Q: What have been obstacles for implementing your programmes and which obstacles do you still experience?
Boxgirls are getting only low support from the government in regard to community development. Boxgirls organization has not been in a position to get support from the local government authority meaning getting community development funds to expand our programme. We still need a lot more funding to meet the needs of communities who want us to reach out to them. We also face a lack of enough space for training. Boxgirls Organization has temporally training grounds for training in boxing which makes it hard for the organization. It’s even harder for the girls to have privacy when in training. As well training equipment is not adequate. Unfortunaltley some members of the communities we work in discourage girls from participating in boxing, they see it as man’s sport. This is also a problem we are facing.
Q: Who supports your work and/or who are partners for your work?
We work together with Comic Relief, Women Win, Boxgirls International and Global FICCS.
Q: Our e-Learning platform is going to be a supporting tool for other people who are working with girls/woman and sport. Do you have any advice for our readers? What should they be aware of when working in that field or using your methods?
Try to create a safe platform where women and girls will be able to share their opinions and come up with solutions for implementation.
Q. You told us something about your project and programmes, could you give us an example for one day or one lesson in your project? How is it structured?
First we start with an introduction to self and session, then have a revisit of the last session which is conducted by the coach. Afterwards follows an introduction to the Boxing skill and life skill topics and we do some actual boxing activity. Then we are usually coming together for Life skills learning before we end the training with telling the girls to have an extra activity which
should be done at home. The last think we do together is a cool down.
Q: Cynthia, thank you so much for your time and effort! We wish you good look with your work at Boxgirls Kenya. We are sure your words will be very inspiring for the visitors of this platform.