Like my fellow ICS volunteers, I arrived in Honduras with a set of preconceived notions about both the place and its people. Some have been vindicated and others have not. Three weeks into my placement, what has struck me most is the diversity between different communities.

These differences have become especially evident during our work to promote women´s football. Football represents an important tool by which to empower women in a society where gender inequality is a major issue; Honduras ranks 105th out of 146 countries in the gender inequality index.

JLC, a local organisation, work with three different communities surrounding La Esperanza; Belen, Manazapa, and Chiligatoro. While covering a relatively small geographical area, there are marked differences between these groups. These differences manifest themselves in how the women act towards each other as well as my colleagues attached to this project.

Upon discussion with my fellow volunteers, it quickly became apparent that a uniform approach to each of the teams would not allow us to meet our objectives. A tailored approach, incorporating different drills as well as adapting the way we relate to each community, was agreed upon as the guiding principle with which to operate. The women´s team in Belen, for example, often has problems communicating with one another during play. To stress the importance of communication, a specific drill was adopted. One of the women was required to stand in the middle of the circle made up of her team mates. We asked her to close her eyes, and then pass to whichever of her team mates called for the ball. In our end of session match, we witnessed a marked difference in the level of communication between the women.

Following the session we talked to one of Belen´s strongest players, Fatimah. When asked for her favourite position she replied “defence, as you get to help out your fellow players and goalkeeper”. It is clear the women are willing to work for each other on the pitch, if this can be continued after the final whistle is blown real progress can be made within the communities. Fatimah, as well as many of the other women we work with, also take part in some of JLC´s other projects, such as our microenterprise initiatives. Helping ensure these key values are stressed across different initiatives will help consolidate their impact. The huge strides made in just two sessions with the women of Belen leads me to believe we can make a real difference with this project.

Happy faces! Chiligatoro´s team after a hard training session.

As we begin to feel more comfortable working in the three communities, getting to know the men, women and children make them up, we are faced with a challenge. Differences between the communities will only prove problematic if we fail to adapt our strategies accordingly. In this communication will be crucial, both within our volunteer group as well as with the members of each community themselves. With open eyes as well as ears, diversity represents an opportunity, not an impediment.

Written by an ICS volunteer based in La Esperanza