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A win for Brazil in Rio


team brazil, SCWC, philippines, girls' tournament, Brazil’s girls’ team won the girls’ football tournament in the Street Child World Cup 2014.

Nine teams of street-connected girls from around the world, aged 14 – 17, competed in the Street Child World Cup (SCWC) this year in the first girls-only tournament held in Rio de Janeiro alongside one for the boys.

Brazil beat the Philippines 1 – 0.

To see the other results, click here.

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The girls’ tournament is considered an important statement of solidarity with street girls who are so often unseen and denied the opportunities to play sport.

It also provides these girls with an even greater opportunity to change people’s perceptions and for their stories to be heard.

Girls are more often abused, denied opportunities and basic rights.

Gender stereotypes are being lived out because girls are not properly supported or represented – they are neglected and marginalised and vulnerable to gender-based violence and abuse, both on the streets and in the situations leading up to their arrival there.

But there are not enough specific services for street connected girls, and many projects find it difficult to engage them.

SCWC didn’t want the girls’ tournament to be seen as separate from the SCWC as a whole – it is crucial to engage boys with the issues for girls on the streets, since they have often (but not always) been the perpetrators of abuse.

Street connected girls often lack visible role models and sport can offer these – as well as a chance to change perceptions, challenge stereotypes and inspire dreams.

England was represented at the SCWC by a team made up of young people who have experienced homelessness in London, and they played Nicaragua and Mozambique.

The SCWC’s partner here was New Horizon Youth Centre and Islington Council’s Independent Futures service.

New Horizon, a centre for homeless young people based near to Kings Cross railway station, has been working for 42 years offering a daily service to young people who find themselves homeless in the city.

New Horizon offers advice and support back into education or employment, counselling, housing advice, health and medical support and sports, arts and drama activities. It offer its services at their day centre and conduct street outreach.

Casa Alianza Nicaragua began a programme in 1998 to work with children at risk, in response to thousands of vulnerable children living on the streets in Nicaragua.

Their first crisis centre and an additional transition centre were opened later that year. They expanded again in 2001 to open a “Mothers and Babies” centre to look after young mothers who were looking after their babies on the street and for pregnant teenage girls.

Today, Casa Alianza Nicaragua works with an average of 5,000 street children a year. Many of these are the victims of sexual exploitation or were trafficked for sexual purposes.

The vast majority have problems with addiction, have broken family ties and all are considered to be at high risk.

A girls’ team from Maputo represented Mozambique. SCWC’s partner in Maputo, Meninos Da Mocambique (MDM), is a Mozambican NGO providing social assistance and medical care to children on the streets of Mozambique’s cities.

Originating as a medical team, MDM has expanded its services to also provide education, vocational training, psychosocial support, prevention in communities and reintegration work with children and families.

Football forms an important part of MDM’s preventative work with girls who may be at risk of life on the streets.

As part of an extensive range of activities they have 3 (or more) girls’ football teams who are involved in their prevention programmes.

They use football to challenge traditional roles which girls become trapped in, as domestic assistants in the home with very little freedom, and to give them the opportunity to play.

The teams have been successful and last year’s team were taken on by a local club once they had outgrown the project.

MDM is supported in the UK by Street Child Africa, an NGO which works with street child projects across Africa.

The girls team that won is part of the IBISS project in Rio de Janeiro.

IBISS has introduced projects to tackle social exclusion, discrimination and violence in more than 60 communities in Rio de Janeiro, where it is based.

The organisation runs a wide range of programmes that include outreach work with young people on the streets and a scheme to help orphans find a home with families living locally.

IBISS works in many of Rio’s most deprived communities, where violence and the drugs trade are rife but where basic infrastructure, and education and work opportunities are in short supply.

Soccer and sports are a key part of the holistic approach; IBISS runs soccer schools to help keep children out of the drugs trade and in education, as well as to monitor their overall health and any social problems.

Former child soldiers often work as young leaders in the soccer schools and in social programmes.

Where appropriate, IBISS engages in mediation to help young people leave the streets and return to their communities.

Soccer schools are key part of programmes; teaching discipline and also mentoring kids; trainers also use soccer sessions to identify illness or other problems and to ‘blackmail’ children to attend regular school.

Issues for street children in Rio have changed over the past two decades, with more children becoming involved in organised crime and addicted to crack.

Today, children often end up on the streets; forced out because they are addicted to crack or because they upset traffickers and their names end up on death lists.

Team Rio was chosen from among 20 girls who are currently coached by Jessica, a former street child. Jessica is now 18 and spent 18 months on the streets shoe-shining in Lapa but has been reintegrated into her family.

IBISS’s founder, Nanko van Burren, said: “What is exciting about the SCWC tournament is the opportunity to make the world aware of street children – it’s a chance to show people that, when you really want to, there are many ways that you can involve them in projects that help them.

“Of course, football is just a game – the exciting part is the political statement.”

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