In its second year, the five-day program includes education, empowerment and soccer training and will culminate in a football and Mine Risk Education (MRE) festival for 200 local Cambodian girls, led by the female trainee coaches and attended by senior representatives from the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs at the US Department of State.
Traveling from Vietnam, Myanmar (Burma), Laos and across Cambodia, the women – ranging in age from 18 to 50 – will take part in an intensive schedule of education workshops on risks, behaviors and historic information about mines and ERW; on-field sessions that enable the messages to be learned in engaging ways; and tours to mine/ERW clearance sites and government entities responsible for clearance and surveying.
Most of the women are students, soccer coaches, or instructors for local NGOs and work with children that are at daily risk from the millions of unexploded bombs and landmines that litter South East Asia. Because of the huge popularity of soccer in the region, it is a powerful way to attract children and communicate vital safety messages.
Asked how this workshop has impacted the participants, Laos delegation head Yodkeo Phawadee, who also works for the Laos Football Federation, said: “The girls that attend really benefit from this course. the learn knowledge and skills and about landmines, and they get a sense of self worth by building up their self esteem and confidence and they make friends from all different backgrounds and communities too."
Battambang, where the workshop took place, is one of the most heavily-contaminated areas on the continent, with four million landmines and ERW in the region.
“’Educate a man and you educate a man. Educate a woman and you educate a generation’ – this quote has always really struck home for me,” Spirit of Soccer founder Scotty Lee said. “We need to provide more opportunities for women to be empowered and educated to make the world a safer and more peaceful place. It’s an honor to work with such inspirational women this week, especially on International Women’s Day, and I look forward to continuing to work with these impressive people in the years to come.”