Netball the tool in empowering and engaging girls in Sri Lanka

In September 2016, Netball Australia staff traveled to Sri Lanka with Josie Janz-Dawson, former West Coast Fever player and One Netball Ambassador, to run One Netball Asia.

Netball Australia partnered with local NGO the Foundation of Goodness to run a coaching and professional development camp, and a community netball tournament with empowerment sessions for participants.

The program focused around developing leadership and decision-making skills to equip women and girls as change agents in their communities, encouraging social connections across the cultural divides of the civil war in Sri Lanka. 

Sessions were facilitated by the National Peace Council, covering cohesive team building, non-violent communication, understanding the dynamics of conflicts, and ‘symbolizing yourself’ to improve self-awareness. The tournament and coaching camp also aimed to teach coaching techniques, and awarded, promoting sportsmanship on and off the court.

The 120 adolescent female participants also worked closely with mentors, including Josie, who delivered clinics and shared her experiences of community engagement programs and reconciliation in netball. Jayanthi Kuru-Utumpala, the first Sri Lankan to summit Mount Everest, also engaged with the girls to inspire them to challenge gender stereotypes.

Results from the program included:

  • 10 participants took part in a coaching camp that highlighted inclusive, positive coaching practices. These coaches have developed skills and experience to deliver netball programs that offer fun and safe opportunities for women and girls to participate in physical activity that contributes to improved physical and mental well being.   
  • The 10 coaches undertook training that aimed to establish them as change agents and mentors in their communities. 70% of the coaches reported they would use what they have learnt to teach younger generations and to develop leadership and social skills in their players. 
  • 120 girls from across Sri Lanka participated together in a netball clinic and community netball tournament. There is evidence of ongoing social connections with 92% of the coaches reporting their players had learnt ‘to play united together’.  This was demonstrated in players working together during leadership training, sitting in mixed groups during breaks in the tournament, socialising despite language barriers, teaching each other words, and singing and dancing together.
  • 90% of coaches reported that the main thing they had learnt was ‘how to work with other communities’.
  • A team from the war-affected north won, demonstrating to all involved that netball is a level playing field, no matter where a girl is born or grows up.

Netball brings young women and girls together to learn, have fun and connect in a safe and supportive environment. One Netball Asia has facilitated cross-cultural exchanges that provide a positive space for participants to develop meaningful social connections that promote community development and social cohesion.