Capoeira for all

By Catri Foot

Working to empower children and youth regardless of their gender

Capoeira4Refugees works in conflict and post conflict zones where in each of these contexts a shared experience of conflict and trauma is present. In such environments, the issue of gender equality is exacerbated. Social isolation, forced marriage, sexual violence and lack of access to an education list a few complex situations that young girls in the region could face.  In an effort to provide more opportunities for young girls in the region Capoeira4Refugees uses the brazilian sport of Capoeira to promote respect and gender equality between our programme participants.

In an interview with a school counsellor, she highlighted the impact Capoeira has had on the young women and girls,

“The girls feel that they are all equal in Capoeira. No winners, no losers. They are all the same. So this is why, it makes them feel, “we are the same, you are not more perfect than me, you are not better than me, we are all the same.”

Many trainers confirm this by finding that over time Capoeira students become more accepting of and welcoming to others.

Strong bonds between trainers and classmates also have helped develop inner strength and confidence, so much so that students have been known to train even when circumstances get in the way. Over time the students have been found to have become more comfortable and accepting of each other, with questionnaires citing an overall improvement of 10.56 % and 14.3 % of boys and girls respectively.

For shyer students and girls, the music aspect has provided a quiet outlet of much success until they are comfortable enough to learn to perform some of the capoeira moves.

Female trainers particularly inspire girls as role models of strong women, A student highlights:

[My trainer] can compete with guys and she’s given a very very beautiful image about women and females in general. She can kick and she kicks very well so um, she made me more attached to Capoeira because she knew how to train and she knew what we like and what we don’t. And she could participate in our community as a conservative community in a very good way.

In spite of the burden of balancing strong pressures of society, many girls attributed their love of capoeira to feelings of equality and independence that it gave them.  On the whole increased inner strength has been observed across all groups of students, from to children to adults for both boys and girls. This was confirmed by the general self-efficacy scale, which saw a 11.4 % and 6.8 % rise for girls and boys respectively.

By allowing girls and boys to participate side by side we can fight gender stereotypes, teaching children and youth to see each other as individuals who are able to play sports regardless of their gender. Our capoeira projects enable girls to develop leadership skills, to talk about the struggles they may face as a result of their gender and have opportunities to make their own decisions despite a surrounding culture that doesn’t often allow them to do so.