Leah Williamson recently launched the pioneering Coaching for Life programme in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Working as one team, Arsenal and Save the Children have combined their world-class expertise to create a pioneering football coaching programme - funded by The Arsenal Foundation - that influences and protects children affected by violence, conflict and poverty in Jordan and Indonesia.
Off the back of her WSL-winning season and World Cup campaign with the Lionesses, Williamson visited Jakarta to experience first-hand the challenges facing the young girls there and learn how Coaching for Life is empowering them to tackle the stereotypes that follow them playing football.
The Coaching for Life programme aims to support girls in Indonesia by building their courage and inner strength through innovative coaching modules to help them stand up for their rights to combat the challenges they face, such as having to work from a young age to provide for their families, risk of child marriage and early pregnancy.
In Indonesia, inequality means girls growing up in the poorest households are five times more likely than children in the richest households to miss out on school as they work to provide for themselves and their families.
Too many miss out on time to learn and play, depriving girls of the opportunity to build a brighter, more secure economic future, the power to make decisions about their own lives and make friends they can rely on for strength and support.
Williamson said: “The young girls in Jakarta inspired me and have made me incredibly proud to be a woman and a role model to young girls.
“I’ve been at Arsenal since I was nine and always known about our place and role in our community. It’s in our DNA. We all understand it’s a privilege to use the power of the club to do good. When you apply it in a really special way it can be used to achieve brilliant things - develop confidence, resilience and essential skills for life.
“Whether you’re growing up in London, Jordan or Jakarta, football has the power to bring people together and offer a lifeline. It was amazing to see how Coaching for Life has been built in partnership with Save the Children to create something so special to inspire the girls I met.”
Diah, 14 years old, said: “I want to give a better life for my family. I have met so many children who have to work. There are so many abandoned children in my neighbourhood. Because their parents are so poor they are leaving home to find work.”
“I find Coaching for Life very helpful. It makes me happy. Although I have a lot of problems, I just have to tackle them. When problems are afflicting me, I still have to go to the training ground. By playing football, I can forget all the troubles in my family.”
Coaching for Life supports children from Indonesia’s city slums and is also offering hope to Syrian children at Za’atari refugee camp. The project aims to reach 4,000 girls and boys over three years and consists of six coaching modules which run over 20-week cycles.
The programme also supports both girls and boys equally. The project has a target of achieving a 50:50 gender balance as equal participation is key to unlocking children’s potential.
Selina Sumbung, CEO of Save the Children Indonesia, said: “Many children in Jakarta live in poverty and challenging conditions, and often experience an environment that is rife with violence and exploitation. They are from broken homes and single parent households which means that many girls feel obliged to work, putting extra stress on them as they also try and continue to go to school and also look after younger siblings. We set up Coaching for Life to help some of these very vulnerable children.
“The Coaching for Life programme will offer children an opportunity to forget about their burdens and stress and just be children for a couple of hours a week. Through football it teaches them teamwork, communication, stress management and how to manage negative emotions.
"I have met young girls in this program who have expressed their happiness and pride in joining the programme as it has lifted their self-confidence and changed their perspective, giving them the emotional maturity to tackle the hardships and challenges in their lives.
“Save the Children has been committed to protecting children for 100 years and now thanks to The Arsenal Foundation, we can continue to empower and protect girls and boys through the sport that they love.”