Players traveling in full basketball gear from Rwinkwavu, Kayonza and Nyamirama were all smiles when they scrambled out of local busses this past Saturday, January 20th in Rukara Sector for the 2019 Shooting Touch Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Awareness Tournament.
The tournament — running from 10:00AM-2:30PM — was created to stress the significance of gender equality, relationship abuse and female empowerment within villages in the Eastern Province of Rwanda. The event was also a platform for free non-communicable disease (NCD) testing. Ten Rukara Health Center nurses gathered underneath a courtside tent checking for NCDs such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes. Examination was available for 500 members of the Rukara community and players involved in the Shooting Touch program. Three breast cancer specialists were present for testing as well.
The scene from the tent was one to behold. Kids jostled in a line extending from half court to the baseline hoping to be the first to stand on a scale checking for body mass index (BMI). Neighbors, fellow churchgoers, siblings and close friends laughed in conversation and sat patiently on rows of wooden benches waiting for checkups. Nurses ordered patients of all ages to “take a deep breath” and “stand up straight.” The Rukara staff had an arsenal of stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs and diagnostic kits set-up for the weaving rows of those seeking medical treatment.
Authority figures from the community were nothing short of impressed by the turnout.
“What Shooting Touch is doing for this district is amazing,” Rukara Vice Mayor Harelimana Jean Damascene said.
Shooting Touch employees also handed out 300 flyers in Kinyarwanda about the definition of GBV, types of GBV and GBV stats.
In Rwanda, nine out of 10 victims of GBV are female, one out of 10 GBV incidents are reported and 34% of women in Rwanda have experienced sexual and/or physical violence from an intimate partner. Hotlines regarding child and female abuse, nearest “One-Stop Centers,” and police misconduct were included on the handouts.
During breaks in play, guest speakers shared their insights with all those in attendance. One presenter was Fidel, a representative from the Rwanda Men’s Resource Centre (RWAMREC) — an organization striving to promote gender equality through reconstruction of a non-violent identity in men. He discussed scenarios in which GBV transpires around the household, and how to appropriately react and respond to abuse.
The ensuing speaker was Olive, a female leader from the Rukara Health Center. She shared the negative effects of GBV and the resources the Health Center provides for any victim involved. Her speech included the locations of local “One-Stop Centers” — physical sites around the community where GBV can be reported.
Along with the excitement of the ongoing health assessments, competitive basketball added to the thrilling atmosphere.
Transport, water and takeaway meals were provided to 168 athletes (Women, U13 Boys/Girls, U18 Girls, U16 Boys and U18 Boys) and 18 deserving “fan” participants from each Shooting Touch court. Team selection was based on attendance to Shooting Touch health lessons, hard work and sportsmanship.
As soon as starters lined up for tipoff, the aforementioned smiles twisted to determined game faces. Trans-court friends quickly became rivals. Single elimination brought out visible passion from performers and fans trickling over the out-of-bounds line. Even our Shooting Touch coaches struggled the next day to regain their voices.
From health testing to getting buckets, it was a monumental event — and a day-trip to remember — for everyone.
It’s not common for Shooting Touch members to stray far from home. Rwinkwavu (our furthest-east court) is no more than an hour and 15 minutes away from where the tournament was held. Yet, for a handful of participants, this trip delivered a first-ever glimpse of Rukara and the outskirts of Lake Muhazi.
When the final whistles sounded, the on-court champions were as such: Rukara Women, Kayonza U13 Boys/Girls, Rwinkwavu Girls (U16), Kayonza Primary Boys (U16), and Rukara Secondary Boys (U18).
MVPs were crowned: Immacule (Rukara), Mitete (Rukara), Mawhiri (Rwinkwavu), Gilbert (Kayonza) and Dieudonne (Rukara). Mitete pulled off a 1969 Jerry West and a “what-could-have-been” 2015 LeBron James by winning a Finals MVP despite being on a defeated team.
Fantas flowed, kitenge (traditional East African fabric) nets fluttered, blood pressure cuffs squeezed, scales tipped, spectators danced and all of Shooting Touch’s staff/donors made another awe-inspiring event a reality.
Everyone on the ground in Rwanda can’t wait for the next scheduled tournament in March.