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The Norwegian Judo Federation is fighting for peace

The International JudoFederation har en artikkel om NJF og Judo For Fred sitt arbeid i Afghanistan. Den er publisert både på IJF og EJU sine nettsider.

The whole world was amazed by the first female Afghan ever to compete in the Olympic games, the judokas Freba Razzey’s, performance in Athens last summer. However very few actually knew this important event in Afghan history took place as a result of the project "Judo for Peace" managed by the Norwegian Judo federation.

Started in 2002
Freba was one of the participants in a training program, which has been offered to Afghan judokas by the Norwegian Judo Federation since September 2002. So far nearly 200 Afghan children and youngsters from Kabul and Mazar-I-sharif have participated in this project called Judo for Peace. The project was the initiative of a co-operation between the Norwegian and the Afghan Judo Federations. It started as a small-scale offer to orphanage children administered by a resident Norwegian coach, the diplomat and former judo-competitor, Mr. Stig Traavik. In the beginning the efforts aimed to bring in a minimum of equipment (mats and judogis), and a few hours weekly training for orphans, and in clubs that started awoke from the sleep enforced on them by the taliban authorities. However, the growing interest for the judo-sessions soon showed an increasing demand for larger coach-resources.

The female dimension
Providing girls and young women the possibility to practice judo is an important dimension of the project. In a country with strong patriarchal traditions where a large number of women still feel forced to use the burkha, the teaching of a martial art is quite extraordinary. The event in which the first 5 Afghan girls were awarded their yellow belt in February 2003 therefore was a touching and special performance for the Afghan women spectators present. Freeba Razzeys performance in the Olympic games in the summer of 2004 was another big accomplishment in this matter. Even though she was defeated in her first match, Freba nevertheless won a victory more significant than any Olympic medal. The Norwegian Judo Federation feels honoured to have contributed to this historic achievement.

As an additional contribution to the promoting of judo as women’s sport in Afghanistan the Norwegian female instructors are training Afghan boys and young men. Considering the cultural context, this is quite unusual and in the beginning the rumours about women instructing, and even defeating (!) males, caused an enormous crowd of curious spectators to attempt to look through the windows of the dojo. Whereas the instructors in the beginning were met by scepticism and utterances like: are we going to be trained by shes??!, their afghan judokas now have learned that on the tatami only the rules of judo apply, and that a sensei remains a sensei regardless of age, nationality or gender.

Bringing sports back to the children
The main purpose of the project is the idea of bringing sports back to Afghan children and young people. Hence, the project contributes to the huge effort of rebuilding sports in Afghanistan. 23 years of war and devastation have practically wiped out every possibility for organised physical activity. Under the talibanregime women were not allowed to take part in sports, and practically all judoactivities ceased to operate under the extreme constraints. Educating instructors is a core part of the effort. The overall goal is to make the Afghan Judo Federation self-sufficient with instructors, so that Afghan judo-activities in the future can be run mainly by Afghans forces Other kinds of assistance provided through the project is technical support, management-training, and general capacity building for sports activities. When conducting a project in a country where corruption is a constant problem faced by humanitarian workers, one of the mantras for the Norwegian Judo Federation is that the children are being offered something that can not be taken away, namely an activity.

11 Norwegian judo-instructors visited Afghanistan
Since September 2002, 11 Norwegian judo-instructors, both men and women, have stayed in Kabul more or less continuously for periods up to 3 months in order to train athletes and educate instructors. After a short break due to the securitysituation related to the Afghan presidential elections in autumn 2004, another 2 coaches will be leaving for Kabul in February 2005. The financial support for the project has been provided by The Norwegian Embassy in Kabul, The Norwegian Agency for Development Co-operation, The Norwegian Army, The Norwegian Police Academy and The Norwegian Judo Federation, as well as a number of Norwegian Judo clubs. Thus, the project has inspired the judosociety in Norway to a co-ordinated effort hardly seen before in its history. Other countries, such as Japan, India and Iran have expressed a desire to contribute. Through a newly established co-operation with the Norwegian Peace Corps, young Afghan instructors will soon coming to Norway as part of an exchange program between Afghan and Norwegian clubs. Additionally the project has generated efforts in other important fields, such as judo for handicapped people. This activity was also initiated by Norwegians, who assisted the Afghan team during the Paralympics last summer. The judo for handicapped athletes program is now being administered under it’s own umbrella, lead by the Afghanistan Paralympic Federation. Further, the German supported Amani high school has chosen to include judo as an extracurricular activity after learning about the project. An Afghan coach trained by the project has been chosen as instructor.

An experience for life
Besides the pleasure of sports, the sessions are being observed as promoting other life values for the Afghan judokas. To a people struck by war and sorrows and youngsters deprived of their childhood, the opportunities to make friends, play freely, and for a limited time move focus from the challenges of a demanding everyday life seem highly appreciated. For some of the children, the judo sessions also seem to have a therapeutic effect as they are given the chance to “fight out” their anger and traumas. The discipline required by judokas also proves to be a useful exercise for the orphans. This also applies to a small project within the project where street-children are offered judosessions every week. These children through judo, are also taught elementary discipline and life knowledge, and at the end of the session they are given a meal. All the Norwegian instructors visiting Kabul have been struck by the Afghan judokas’ high spirits and their obvious gratitude for the hours on the tatami. The coaches’ stay in Afghanistan is being described as a lifetime-experience characterised by strong human impressions and enriched by the hospitality of new Afghan judo-mates and the confident love of small judo-“sons” and “daughters”. There probably are few places in the world where judo is being performed with such heartfelt joy and sincere appreciation as in Kabul!

The project management of Judo for Peace is looking for new partners. Would you like to know more about the project, or would your Federation or club like to contribute? Please contact Project manager Ms. Birgit Ryningen at birgit@judoforfred.org

Kilde: European Judo Union
Kilde: International Judo Federation

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Publisert: 01/06-05 12:49 av
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