Dominique Uwimana is in charge of communication at Espêrance, an organisation that promotes sports at Kimisagara Football for Hope Center. He is also an advocate for women in sports and the use of football as a tool for social change.
In an interview with Saturday Sport’s Doreen Umutesi, Uwimana reveals his passion for advocating for women in sports.
Briefly tell us about yourself and the advocacy work?
I was born in Kabagali sector, Ruhango District, Southern Province on February 10, 1979. For many years, I have participated in various trainings in the area of conflict management, HIV/AIDS campaigns, and football as a tool for social change.
Through the youth association Espêrance, I take part in many activities with young people in Rwanda and neighbouring countries as well as internationally. For instance, I was a trainer of young leaders in mediation at FIFA Football for Hope Festivals in 2010 (South Africa) and 2014 (Brazil).
Espêrance was established in 1996 after the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, and its objective was the search for justice and peaceful coexistence. Espêrance provides educational and social programmes such as Football for Peace and Anti-AIDS campaigns to raise awareness among young people. Its core activities include gender based violence alleviation programme, literacy training, talent development and fighting drug abuse among others.
Can you tell us how girls are benefiting from these projects?
The girls have special sports programmes as well as the boys.
We also provide them with formal education, for example we have English lessons which help them to have opportunities to connect with international exchanges (as Espêrance partners with organisations in Germany, South Africa and South America).
What inspired you into advocacy for women in sports?
In my childhood, I used to do some physical exercises with my friends (boys) and the girls just watched us and could not join. So, I asked myself why they couldn’t join us. When I started playing football in Espêrance FC in 1996, I was concerned to see girls around the football pitch as passive participants.
One day, I asked my friend that we integrate the girls in our sports. Luckily promotion of women in sports, especially football was among the key objectives of Espêrance.
So, the motivation for girls to join our sports sessions inspired me to advocate for women in sports.
What challenges have you encountered while advocating for women in sports?
I started to be actively involved in the empowerment of women in sports in 1996 through Espêrance’. The greatest challenge was, and still is the cultural hinderances.
Even though many girls and many families understand our mission and vision, many girls and women do not join sport sessions because they say that, it is a culture from the west (Europe or America).
So, in our work we have to try to overcome cultural barriers by approaching those who do not accept what we are doing and it is hard to convince them. They say a girl or a woman who does sports, especially one who plays football is a delinquent.
Another challenge is about funds. Even though Espêrance is supported financially by FIFA, the funds are limited to support all activities. And also we have huge number of beneficiaries (more girls who want to benefit from our services).
How have you been able to deal with the above mentioned challenges?
First of all we started by inviting our sisters, as our parents could understand. Then Espêrance trained local volunteers (boys and girls) who became peer educators in this domain of promoting women in sports.
We include some other attractive entertainment programmes like music, dances, and traditional games to interest those who do not agree with the idea to involve women in sports.
Our events and activities combine sports and cultural activities. Concerning lack of enough funds, we focus on our regular activities and organise fewer events.
What advise can you provide so that women in sports programme can be enhanced?
Women should stand for their rights. Sport is a moment of fun, love, respect and peace and no one should be denied that right.
Women involved in sports should not let the world change them but they have the power to change the world by being role models for other women. They should inspire more women to embrace sports.
What are the future plans for the next five years?
We want Espêrance to be a model organization in mobilisation, advocating and supporting women in sports, on national, regional and international level. Our plan is also to train more female role models.