Sport and Resilience: Empowering Children through Movement

Kabaddi in India

Armed conflicts, migration, poverty, climate crisis - children's rights are under threat in many contexts around the world nowadays. On the occasion of the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, the leading Swiss organisation for children's rights Terre des hommes Lausanne highlights the importance of physical activity in strengthening children's protection and resilience.  

The International Day of Sport for Development and Peace is being celebrated on Saturday, 6 April. Terre des hommes Lausanne (Tdh) campaigns for the protection of children in and through sport and shows how closely physical activity and well-being are linked with peace and children's rights. 

Hasina is one of the girls who has gained self-confidence through Kabaddi, a sport that is mostly played by men in India. Especially in West Bengal, where Hasina lives, the risk of sexual abuse, trafficking and child marriage is high. “Before I started playing kabaddi, I thought I was worthless," says Hasina.

In Tdh's sports projects, physical activities are structured to develop skills such as team spirit, cooperation and self-confidence. They are accompanied by awareness-raising messages to make children aware of risks and dangers and to strengthen their protection. Tdh has already helped more than 1,500 girls in India to gain self-confidence.

Sustainable sport projects 

"Sport is a powerful approach to supporting children to recover from difficult circumstances, develop life skills and become advocates for change. Supporting access to safe sport contributes to our commitment to uphold children's rights and create an environment where every child can thrive, regardless of their status or past experiences”, says Maria Bray, Tdh Child Protection Expert.  

Most Tdh sports activities are co-led by children and young people. In this way, they also learn to organise activities with their peers, which reinforces their capacities to act and guarantees the sustainability of the projects. But the empowerment doesn't stop there: the young people learn to defend their rights in other areas, such as climate change, conflict or gender inequality. The sports projects also involve the children's families and communities to achieve a lasting impact. Sport enables people to work together across cultures and communities, contributing to more peaceful coexistence.

Raising awareness through football  

Other sports can also contribute to children's mental well-being and empowerment: In Egypt and Bangladesh, for example, children participate in football tournaments organised by Tdh and take part in awareness-raising activities and discussions on issues such as abuse and climate change. In this way, they learn to protect themselves and other children.  

"Sport can fill the emptiness that some young people suffer from, and not only that, it replaces it with good self-confidence and ambition. A society that cares about sports is a society that can work towards a better future," says Eslam, a 24-year-old participant in the football activities in Egypt. 

To raise the bar of child protection in sport, Tdh partners with sport organisations like the Olympic Refugee Foundation, UEFA, IOC, and FIBA

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