Although youths have historically played an important role in societal growth and advancement, including efforts to promote peace, there are few countries in Africa where the problems youths face are holistically addressed. For instance, in nearly all African countries, there is lack of critically acclaimed national programs that integrate sports in the curricula or national development programs. As a consequence, children and youths are becoming more and more integrated into clandestine and nefarious activities that threaten sociopolitical stability.
More importantly, the United Nations Sport for Development of Peace (UNOSDP) considers sport and play as human rights that must be respected and enforced worldwide. Yet, in almost all African communities, sport and play programs have disappeared from schools in the same way that history is disappearing from curriculum and commodities are disappearing from grocery shops. Despite this, sport has been increasingly recognized and utilized as a low-cost and high impact tool in humanitarian, development and peace-building efforts by the UN system and by NGOs, governments, development agencies, armed forces, sports federations and the media. This means that we can no longer consider sport and play as luxuries within society, even in pitiably poor African communities, but as important investments in the present and future of our youths and our communities.
The UNOSDP defines sport differently than development organizations will define sport. Most development agencies will define sport in its broader social context to include a spectrum of activities that is suitable for people of all ages and abilities, but particularly focusing on its positive context. Our approach to sport development is based on the 2003 UN inter-Agency Task Force on Sport for Development and Peace definition as, “all forms of physical activity that contribute to physical fitness, mental well-being and social interaction, such as play, recreation, organized or competitive sport, and indigenous sports and games.” This broad definition undergirds our objective of helping to develop age-grade sports for all African communities that are integrated into school curriculum as well as other aspects of community life.
Like the UNODSP, we believe that sport has a unique power to attract, mobilize, and inspire. This power is based on the fact that it is based on participation, inclusion, and citizenship, and because it represents human values such as respect for the opponent, acceptance of binding rules, and teamwork and fairness. These qualities and principles are contained in the Charter of the United Nations.
We emphasize sports because of its unique convening power as a cross-cutting tool for:
Advocacy, mobilization, and raising public awareness by leveraging the potential of sports events as outreach platforms. Thus, sports mobilizing may be used as a “door opener” to convey important messages about the spread of common diseases, for advocating child rights, for conveying information about the environment or important school programs.
Development and peace promotion by leveraging grassroots sports projects perform a range of functions, including short-term emergency humanitarian aid or long-term development cooperation projects.
Apart from these, we recognize that sports have numerous other benefits, including individual development, health promotion and disease prevention, promotion of gender equality, social integration and the development of social capital, peace building and conflict prevention/resolution, post-disaster/trauma relief and normalization of life, economic development, and communication and social mobilization.
Thus, for us, our efforts will include the development, promotion, and sponsorship of school sports events through the establishment of sports programs and competitions. These programs will be age-appropriate but will specifically target students at primary and secondary school levels. While programs will be introduced at community levels, efforts will be made to encourage interaction across communities to include within-state and out-of-state sports interaction.
In an effort to improve interaction, the foundation will endow several competitions in the name of Chief Salu Oniha Okonofua, Pa Iyoha Okonofua, Pa Albert Okonofua, Pa Okoroumu Okonofua, and Mama Aikagbonre Okonofua. Also, the foundation will honor the contributions of members of communities for their contribution to their specific communities by establishing sports and games programs and competitions in the names.