Kids Play International event to focus on gender equality

Rwandan coaches are going to see what youth coaching in Park City is all about during a 10-day cultural exchange hosted by Kids Play International (KPI), a charity that uses sport to promote gender equity in communities impacted by genocide.

From June 16-26, eight of Kids Play International’s Rwandan coaches will be in town to discuss gender equality in youth sports and coaching techniques used in the U.S. in an event sponsored by the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

"The purpose is to have them interact with and do some sporting activities with U.S. youth and see how boys and girls play sports together and what sport means to them," Tracy Evans, a three-time Olympic aerial skier and founder of KPI, said. "It’s a really cool exchange of observing the impact sport has over here and talking to the youth about the impact sport has on them. We think this exchange will open the eyes of our current coaches who are coming over to better identify some cultural norms and harmful gender norms they still face over there."

Evans said KPI’s Let’s Play Fair gender equity program in Rwanda, which coaches 130 children ages 7 to 18, has made great strides, but she hopes this month’s cultural exchange can help the coaches implement even more equality upon their return.

"Our Rwandan coaches are mainly schoolteachers from over there," she said. "They did not go to a university and get a degree in physical education. They love what sports can provide, but for them to interact with coaches over here is a really important part of this.

"The way we are teaching in our program is having these coaches think more critically and creatively. The way Rwandan teachers typically teach is very much memorization and having students reiterate what they’ve learned. The [Rwandan] Ministry of Education loves [KPI’s model]. They’ve started implementing this whole new training for all teachers in Rwanda to try to get them to think more creatively."

Though women hold a higher percentage of parliamentary seats in Rwanda (64 percent from 2011 to 2015 according to data from The World Bank) than anywhere else in the world, Evans said the country still has work to do in terms of gender equality.

"On the outside looking in, Rwanda has taken great strides in creating a more equitable society," she said. "However, 80 percent of the population lives rurally in Rwanda. The big question has been how much of that gender equality is actually being trickled down to where 80 percent of the population lives. Also, the government has actually mandated that there is a certain percentage of women who must be hired in government, so how much influence those women have is questionable. They have made some wonderful strides in promoting gender equality, but there’s a lot more to go."

During the 10-day cultural exchange, a panel discussion will be held to discuss obstacles girls face in today’s world and how sports can be used to overcome those obstacles. The discussion will be held on Tuesday, June 21, at 6:30 p.m. at the Temple Har Shalom. A number of former Olympians and other athletes and experts, including Emily Cook, Libby Ludlow, Trace Worthington, Nikki Stone, Matt Terwillegar, Cameron Myler and Sharon Talboys will make up the panel and the event will be hosted by Sarah Murray from Women Win.

"We’re asking people to RSVP to our speaker panel," Evans said. "We do have limited seating, so we’re trying to get an idea of how many people will be there."

For more information on Kids Play International, or to RSVP for the panel discussion on June 21, visit .


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