GEA scheduled a variety of sporting events for female migrants in the spring. These started with a game that involved passing a ball around while introducing themselves, then moved on to learning Italian words and phrases and taking part in multiple football games.
The activities were organised in a public park in a neighbourhood easily accessible to the target group. During the summer, a yoga session was also organised. We share the reaction of a woman on the yoga session: ‘Incredible, as a child I could do this position (the bridge position) very well’, which raised curiosity about the changes in women’s bodies, especially after childbirth. During the summer months, a swimming pool day was organised at the request of the project group, not only to have fun but also to promote swimming. Many women expressed their fear of not being able to swim and said they wanted their children to learn how to swim. We met 3 women from the group for the online webinar that was held at the co-op office. It was great to see them interacting with other women from around the world and reflecting on the challenges and journey of socialisation and engagement in sport Before the Christmas break, on December 19, GEA will host a meeting to stay in touch with the ladies, assure continuity, and get ready for the final event, which will feature sports, experience sharing, and conversations about the value of sports as a tool for social inclusion and empowerment.
The round table-webinar event “Telling and sharing good sports practises for the inclusion of female refugees – Experiences from the territories and Europe” was organised by UISP on January 28. The national gathering involved several activities under the umbrella of the FARE Network and UISP-led INSPIRES (INtegration through Sport and Inclusion for Refugees in Europe for Sustainability) project. The webinar fostered discussion among the various parties that UISP works with to promote sport as a means of social participation and integration for refugees and asylum seekers. Examples from different UISP local committees’ recognised experiences were illustrated, underlining how despite grassroots, sport promotes inclusion and integration of refugees as their access to sports facilities is limited. Aiming to raise understanding of the needs and expectations of refugees, grassroots sports organisations are working to modify already-existing activities and develop appropriate engagement programmes. The purpose of INSPIRES was depicted to offer refugees, football actors (coaches, referees, club administrators) and civil society organizations the necessary knowledge to promote the integration and social inclusion of refugees around Europe. The webinar illustrated experiences developed in other European countries and shared the good practices promoted in territories in Italy, with a focus on the challenges posed, in particular, by the goal of including refugee women.
Speakers of the webinar were: Daniela Conti, Head of Interculturality and Cooperation Policies Uisp; Patrizia Alfano, national Uisp deputy Chair and Paola Voltolina, from the Turin Committee Uisp; Alberto Urbinati, Liberi Nantes president, with the experience of inclusion of refugees and asylum seekers present in trekking, rugby, football and other activities in Rome; Daniela De Angelis, Social Responsibility referent in the Italian Rugby Federation; Fabio Appetiti, responsible for institutional relations in AIC (Italian Footballers Association), who illustrated the experience of solidarity and inclusion between Italian and Afghan female footballers, conducted by the Association. An important contribution came from Gian Marco Duina, an expert on the INSPIRES project on the experiences, and good practices from other European countries. The Meeting was moderated by Raffaella Chiodo Karpinsky, project coordinator on behalf of UISP. “Uisp has always been committed to promoting good inclusion practices that take into account complicated situations such as those of refugees – said Patrizia Alfano, Uisp national deputy Chair and president of Uisp Piemonte Region, who presented the women’s swimming pool experience together with Paola Voltolina of the Turin Committee. Patrizia added: “in addition to this, we are an association that knows how to grasp requests and needs and transform them into actions. It began 12 years ago by granting a group of Muslim women’s request and turning it into a project open to all women; in this way, the initiative gained content from its connections to other realities that deal with the inclusion and integration of immigrant women. “We understand that the experience of the women’s pool is not simply replicated,” Patrizia continues. “Good practise must be handled in every particular detail, especially in the relationships between teachers and members, in order to be repeated and produce beneficial effects. Finding professors who are prepared to go above the technical requirements and welcome students and listen to them is essential. For this reason, in order to lay strong groundwork for our initiative, we have arranged for times of debate and conflict, as well as dealing with contentious matters. We specifically included regional UISP committees that work with refugees or have plans to expand such social work through sports like soccer and others. The meeting was scheduled in person, but the Italian government’s constraints prevented it from going as planned. Regardless, the event went smoothly in terms of the involvement of many Committees and celebrities, which could not be guaranteed due to these constraints The workshop that was held in Torino on May 29 in addition to the events involving a women’s football game between teams composed of Iranian and Russian-speaking girls and the swimming activities with Muslim women inspired by the webinar, which served as the project’s other activity and was managed by UISP. Together, a network of volunteers helped make these events in Turin a reality.’’
Here is an article from the UISP site on the webinar that illustrates the content of the round table. Here you can find the recording of the webinar: recording. Attached to this report you can find the flyer about the event that was used to spread the information on the agenda and how to participate as well as some pictures from the events in Torino.
As a final point, the challenges are in lines with the social distance brought on by the pandemic, which prevented practising and gathering for two years. It was more difficult and required more time and effort to re-motivate and involve migrants, refugees and volunteers in this type of situation where they are already experiencing separation from the local population. Despite this, it was a lovely celebration of a fresh start for everyone while also analysing and assessing the previous efforts! The workshop was a unique chance to discuss potential new tactics for reaching out to various generations of refugees and migrants and to gain knowledge from other experiences provided by the INSPIRES project on how to design and potentially improve football and swimming experiences to be more beneficial both quantitatively and qualitatively. From this perspective, the events and the workshop were very beneficial for relaunching a fresh vision in response to the experiences provided by the INSPIRES project during the webinar on January 28 and the workshop in Torino on May 29.
On World Refugee Day, Organisation Earth accepted the invitation from FC AEK (Athens-based professional football club with refugee roots) as part of the European program “Welcome Through Football”. Organisation Earth attended the great initiative with their participants from the refugee camp of Elaionas, a number of whom also take part in INSPIRES program.
More than 70 children from Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, but also Greece showed up at the facilities of FC Academy Phoebus Aeolus in Athens on Monday 20th of June, where they played football, made new friends and enjoyed themselves!
The Welcome Through Football project aims to help refugee children to engage with their host community, 11 professional clubs from 9 European countries joined forces on this project.
These activities are another great example to remind that sport can be an important tool that can bring together all people and help the fight against any kind of barriers.
Sport is a means of communication that does not require language. It works on contact cooperation, respect and silent dialogue.
Sport is a useful tool for relating and overcoming barriers, linguistic but also social, cultural, economic, even if there are structural barriers that are difficult to break down.
The various projects in which Gea Cooperative is involved aim to engage women, men, and foreign minors with refugee status, particularly using amateur sports. Access to sport, the cost of practicing it, the bureaucracy that prevents those with complex legal status from practicing, the time it takes to get to know the territory and the sporting realities, the time to play sports, the gender gap, are many obstacles that some people face more than others.
These are some structural obstacles that Gea Cooperative tries to counter by promoting social, cultural and sports activities in informal settings or by networking with grassroots sports realities in the city of Padua to increase opportunities for migrant women and men to play sports.
Not only on June 20, a special date, but every day through projects and activities in the area. Gea creates moments of sharing that aim to bring positive messages both in sports and in society.
At the bottom of the article , find some photos of the pilot actions of the Erasmus+ project “INSPIRES. INtegration through SPort and Inclusion for Refugees in Europe On” to promote women’s empowerment, soccer and sports activity for migrant women. Some shots also from the Erasmus+ project “ONSIDE. Amateur soccer free of racism and promoting integration” concluded in 2022, which consisted of a series of training sessions and events to raise awareness and counter racism on soccer fields by promoting social inclusion among athletes of different backgrounds.
For a Europe that needs to work even harder on welcoming, including, and valuing migration. Funding projects like these creates opportunities and best practices to open reflections on the present and build future paths.