Promoting peace and reconciliation through gymnastics

Civil Affairs Division (CAD) of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) have brought together a group of talented school girls from the region through a gymnastics club.

The club aims to promote love, peace and unity in diversity by allowing the children, who come from different ethnic groups, to showcase their gymnastic skills and entertain their audience, and at the same time bring physical and psychological relief and help heal the trauma caused by the ongoing civil war.

“I feel very excited when I carry my friend on my back during gym practice because it means that I can live through the difficulties of life,” said Amira Aisha Ibrahim, a 15 year old gymnast. “I urge young people of South Sudan to remain resilient when facing ups and downs that life brings,” added Ibrahim.

Ibrahim said that as a girl, she has high hopes for her future and she calls on parents not to force their children into early marriage adding that peace is the only hope for South Sudan.

“People sometimes say educating girls is a waste of time and resources, but this is not true. We as girls have the same rights as boys and you may even find girls who are top of their class,” said Ibrahim.

UNMISS Civil Affairs Division Officer, James Mugo said that the club not only helps the girls hove their skills but also helps in developing coping mechanisms for the countless challenges they face in life as young mothers and leaders in their communities.

Mugo said that he often visits the club during patrols in the area to encourage the girls to focus on their education amidst challenges caused by the war. He added that it is important to instill hope in the girls.

The gymnastic club has created a space where girls from different tribal groups can come together and mingle, to foster peace across ethnic groups, a key priority for UNMISS.

“The girls play, sing in unison and climb on each other’s backs without complaining, indicating that the spirit of love and unity exists,” said Aligo Moris Apollo, the executive director of Spring for Peace, an umbrella organization that hosts a number of peace clubs.

According to Apollo, Spring for Peace helps educate girls on generosity and messages of love for neighbours with the hope that the girls will pass on these values to their respective communities.

Ana Edia, a 17-year-old student, said that gymnastics has helped improve her health. She said her body feels lighter and is more flexible allowing her to do her school work and domestic chores with more ease. She encouraged more girls to join the club.

“Let us embrace skills of peaceful co-existence taught to us through gymnastics. We ought to practice habits that enhance growth and development, and not those which encourage resentment,” said Edia.

Currently, Spring for Peace only works with girls but Mr. Apollo said that are plans to introduce a club for boys which will work alongside the girls’ club.

The Civil Affairs Division has developed and provided the club with Standard Operating Procedures to guide the conduct of the games.



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