How Soccer Organizations are Supporting Empowerment for Burmese Girls


In a culture with traditionally defined gender roles, it is atypical to observe the participation of Burmese girls in sports; they are generally expected to assume household responsibilities and remain indoors to look after their family. Nevertheless, an organisation starting ten years ago with a modest ambition is currently altering ingrained perceptions concerning gender roles within the Burmese diaspora residing in Thailand. This is part of our Burmese custom for girls to stay at home; normally, outdoor activities are undertaken by men, explains James, a soccer coach of Chin background employed by PlayOnside, a non-governmental organisation situated on the Thai border.

It is estimated that during Myanmar’s long civil war, approximately , refugees have taken refuge in the nine camps along the Thai-Myanmar border, whilst another , Burmese migrants reside in Mae Sot, a town on the border. With this in mind, PlayOnside was founded to help implement positive grassroots projects for the most vulnerable and marginalized migrants and refugees, particularly girls and young women, on the Thai-Myanmar border.

In , Javier Almagro, the current director, embarked on a journey to the border region from Spain and witnessed the necessity for Burmese migrant children to be provided with equal opportunity in sports. Inspired by this, together with his friend Daen, Almagro organized The Amore Cup tournament to bridge the Thai and migrant Burmese communities. It was noted that Thai boys and girls had more involvement than Burmese kids who lacked proper soccer equipment and appropriate areas to play. Upon witnessing the disparity, Almagro commented: From……

Almagro states that, after a few months of training, it became apparent to him and his team that the idea needed to become more established. The concept behind PlayOnside was developed with the assurance that soccer could be an efficacious means of providing education and strength to those of Burmese and Karen extraction who had been displaced in Thailand. Additionally, this sport has great capacity to encourage social transformation by presenting fun learning activities to youngsters, specifically females, living in the area at the periphery of Thailand and Myanmar.

Through the generous support of donors and the broader Burmese migrant community, the organization experienced rapid growth, thereby affording the opportunity for Burmese girl’s living in Mae Sot to participate in tournaments in Bangkok and other cities. According to Almagro, The organization’s distinctive mission on the border enabled it to cultivate naturally as we gained more acknowledgement for our efforts to supply a fun and educational prospect for Burmese migrants. Initially, female involvement was limited; however, through increased aeness initiatives, the organization has cultivated strong ties with the local Burmese societies over the past decade to raise acceptance.

According to a report by the Women’s Sports Foundation, for many years sports has been one of the most meaningful socio-cultural learning experiences for boys and men, conferring them with various advantages, such as increased performance in academics, amplified levels of confidence and self-esteem, and a more positive body image. The study continues to emphasize that those women who do not engage in sports from an early age are at an unfortunate disadvantage in the world of work, deprived of these advantages. I am particularly pleased with our success in promoting inclusion and empowerment, and facilitating greater participation of Burmese migrant girls in such activities.

The moral

In conclusion, the organization’s unique mission on the Thai-Myanmar border has allowed it to successfully reach a wide variety of Burmese migrants to provide them with an educational and fun opportunity. Through its increased awareness initiatives, it has been able to cultivate strong ties with local Burmese organizations, which have helped to make female participation more commonplace. The organization’s dedication and strength to provide a once in kind opportunity for Burmese migrants’ children is truly commendable and will continue to be of great benefit for years to come.


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