INSPIRING THE NEXT GENERATION THROUGH PLAY AND SPORT

Image credit: Alice Gioia/BBC

In the face of adversity, the power of play is an extraordinary force for positive change. In the latest episode of the BBC’s The Conversation, two remarkable athletes, Right To Play’s Sarah El Jizi and Olympic athlete Ray Bassil, share how sport has inspired them to challenge gender norms and empower young girls and refugees living in Beirut, Lebanon.

Both women are playing their part in shattering gender stereotypes in sports. In Lebanon, as in many parts of the world, the journey of female athletes is often met with resistance. However, their unwavering commitment to their respective sports, coupled with the support of their families and mentors, propelled them to success.

In a fascinating episode of BBC World Service’s The Conversation, the two trailblazing athletes discuss how their own experiences shaped their desire to help promote women’s participation in sports and pay forward the power of play to the next generation in Lebanon.

Sarah El Jizi, a professional basketball player and leader of sport and play-based programmes for Right To Play Lebanon, explains how the chance to play has a profound impact on children living in challenging conditions, including refugee camps. Her work focuses on promoting skills development, social cohesion, and life skills through sports. For the children she works with, basketball is not just a game; it's a pathway to empowerment.

Sarah's dedication to promoting sports as a means of positive change highlights the vital role sports can play as a tool to build stronger communities and empower children with essential life skills like teamwork, collaboration, communication, leadership and decision-making.

Ray Bassil also advocates for increased female participation in sports in Lebanon and around the world. She made her mark after becoming the first Arab woman to compete in three Olympic games and win three consecutive World Cup medals in trap shooting, breaking barriers as a female athlete in a male-dominated field.

Both women discuss their desire to inspire young girls in Lebanon to dream big, regardless of societal expectations, and the profound benefits that play and sport can have for community cohesion and for children’s mental and physical wellbeing.

Listen to the episode ‘Women in Beirut: Promoting Women’s Rights Through Sport’ on BBC Sounds here.

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The Impact of Play in Refugee Camps

In Lebanon, which hosts a significant number of refugees, including 1.5 million Syrians, Sarah's work with Right To Play Lebanon takes on added significance. The conditions in refugee camps are challenging, with limited access to basic necessities.

Despite these hardships, sport and play bring a ray of hope and empowerment to the children living in these camps.

“After what they have been through in the camps, they are more eager to go to training sessions. They are more encouraged and they have this passion in themselves to attend these sessions,” explains Sarah.

Through sports programmes that promote social cohesion and skills development, children find a sense of belonging. These efforts also extend to providing job opportunities for female coaches, contributing to gender equality on and off the field.

Discover more by watching Ray and Sarah's story on BBC iPlayer here.

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“Sport is the future. Keep going and keep growing, believe in yourself and love yourself.” Ray Bassil

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