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OFC Just Play growing in Choiseul Province

Nellie Siope is driving the development of the Just Play programme in Choiseul Province. Credit: SIFF Media

A dramatic shake-up is in store for football development in the Solomon Islands Choiseul province thanks to Nellie Siope who is set to bring her learnings from a recent OFC Just Play training workshop in Honiara, to rural communities in the province.

“I am happy to come and build my capabilities and I’ll go back to my province to develop our children through this programme,” Siope said.

Siope was one of 17 participants, and the only female, on a five-day capacity building workshop held at the Rock Heaven Inn in Honiara recently.

The course focused on five primary themes where football is used as a tool for social development:

Child Survival — by reducing the risk factors associated with non-communicable diseases, and engaging children and adolescents with a range of health issues

Education — by facilitating the development of important life skills applicable both on and off the field, including the acceptance of rules, decision-making, teamwork, respect and play

Gender Equality — by changing perceptions towards women and girls, and creating pathways to empower women and girls to realise their human rights

Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) —by supporting the development of positive WASH behaviours and practices in schools, communities and in times of emergencies

Child Protection and Social Inclusion —by challenging harmful social norms and stereotypes, and creating pathways to empower those disadvantaged on the basis of their gender, identity or ability to realise their human rights

Emergency — by building resilience and supporting the emotional recovery of children and adolescents following natural disasters and conflict.

The Choiseul-based OFC Just Play coordinator said the workshop will enable her to incorporate OFC Just Play activities in her overall work plan for the year.

“I’m so fortunate to participate in the workshop training because it will help me to train school sports masters and community volunteers on how to implement the Just Play programme and will help bring up children together to have a positive mind for football development in our province.

“I’ve learned a lot of vital tips, tools, knowledge, and skills in the one-week training and it will prepare me to carry out my football development activities this year. I’m ready to take up the challenge as a sporting leader in my province,” Siope continued.

Through the OFC Just Play Programme children and adolescents are empowered to advocate as agents for change, supporting the development of positive behaviour practices and the enhancement of resilience among their peers and the community.

Just Play is an award-winning Sport for Development Programme using the power of football to improve the lives of children aged 6-18 years old, throughout the Pacific and uses a critical intervention alongside football development at national and regional levels.

For now, Siope’s focus is on the younger age categories with a view to develop the programme locally to cater to the older demographic in the future.

“The programme is purposely aimed for primary school children in the rural communities in our province. We hope to shift the dissemination of the Just Play Programme to the secondary school students, aged below 18, in the future,” she said.

The Just Play programme was  introduced to the Choiseul province this year by the Solomon Islands Football Federation (SIFF).

Siope aims to promote gender equality through the rural development of football in the province.

“I hope to take the challenging step of changing traditional perceptions towards women and girls in football and creating a pathway to empower rural girls to realise their human rights to play football alongside boys.

Despite the Choiseul province being a vast yet isolated location, Siope hopes to deliver Just Play to as much of the rural communities in the province as possible.

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