Life Skills and Sport for Development and Peace

Hello All,

I’m new to Terry*.  I saw a link on the Terry* site for the SDP talk that took place prior to the Olympics, so I am making a huge assumption that people have a general idea of what sport for development and peace is.  If you don’t, there are links throughout this post that might help.

I’m currently working in Lesotho with a SDP programme called Coaching for Hope (Check out this link for information or check out my blog). It is an organization that uses soccer/football to disseminate messages on HIV/AIDS.  It seems like an odd combination, HIV/AIDS and sport, but for organizations working in SDP it is very common. Right to Play is probably the most well known in Canada.

I do not have a problem with HIV/AIDS awareness programmes, but one thing that makes me cringe is that most of these organizations, Right to Play included, will claim that their aim is to teach life skills and promote behavior change. To teach a skill you need to provide someone with knowledge and then they need to be able to apply that knowledge. This is where I feel there is a problem with life skills and it can be illustrated by a Lesotho newspaper article.



The article was about the rape of a 16 year old girl by a man who is HIV positive. The headline itself is unfortunately common, but what struck me was how the man tried to defend himself

“I admit that I chased and stabbed her with a knife. She consented to sex because she was scared.”

His defense was that he did not rape her because she consented to sex as a result of him stabbing her.


If rape is common, if a wife is not allowed to refuse sex with her husband, if a women does not have the power to demand the use of a condom, or if a young man is so poor that his decisions are based on survival, then what can life skills education hope to achieve?

Are life skills and behavior change – two concepts which emphasize individual choice – relevant in situations where there are power imbalances and individuals may lack the freedom to choose?

Because I didn’t want to go way over the suggested post length with my first post I neglected to bring up some other interesting questions: Who decides what life skills are important and in what contexts? Through what mechanisms do people learn life skills in sport and are these mechanisms transferable across cultures? Do life skills and other SDP buzzwords like empowerment and self-esteem carry the same meaning across cultures?

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Shawn graduated from UBC a number of years ago when he completed a Bachelor of Human Kinetics, followed by a Bachelor of Education. Not really interested in toiling away in a particular school district in B.C., he decided to go abroad and ended up teaching P.E. in China. His last year coincided with the Beijing Olympics and seemed like a fitting way to conclude his time in Asia. Through work and travel experiences he took an interest in international issues and development and completed a Certificate in International Development through UBC Continuing Studies. Shawn returned to Canada and worked for a year as a teacher-on-call before deciding it was time to explore his interest in international development a bit more. He is now working in Lesotho (a small country inside of South Africa) on an HIV/AIDS project run by the Lesotho Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (LENEPWHA). The project has a sport-for-development component that is using soccer to reach out to, and provide services for, orphaned and vulnerable children. At the same time Shawn had also applied to start graduate studies at UBC and will officially start his MA this year. His posts will reflect his personal and work experiences in Lesotho, and the concept of sport as a tool in development.