Celebrating female sports on International Women’s Day in Benghazi

Exercise plays a positive role in mental health and can provide a transformative outlet for those who have lived through highly stressful events such as conflict.

For celebrations linked to International Women's Day 2019, ACTED organized a table tennis tournament as a means to raise awareness of the benefits of sports on adolescent girls’ and women's health.

Libyan adolescents and youth are amongst the most vulnerable population in the country as a result of the risks related to the conflict
Since 2014 the majority of women have little access to public sports spaces.

Table tennis tournaments and their impact on women’s health

The recent conflict in Libya put life on hold for residents of Benghazi, often confining them indoors for long periods and seriously limiting their opportunities for sport and normal social interactions. The purpose of this action was to provide a safe space in which female players, referees and the audience could enjoy sports in a relaxed environment.

Attendees were mainly adolescent tennis players who had lost access to their play areas, their peers, and their trainers due to the situation in Benghazi. The gathering thus felt like a reunion of old friends, adding an extra layer of warmth to the nostalgia and excitement of hitting the ball for the first time in a long while.


Lubna, a member of ACTED’s protection team, said that ‘the trainers were impressed by the level of performance their students showed once they were in a tournament mindset.’

One of the participants said, “I brought both of my daughters to the event, one of them has a tennis match after tomorrow, so there couldn’t have been a better scenario for my daughter to both practice and enjoy her time”.

The trainers were impressed by the level of performance their students showed once they were in a tournament mindset

Lubna, Member of ACTED's Protection Team

Raising awareness on the importance of sport and women's health

This event highlighted the community’s strong desire for more sports opportunities for women in Benghazi. This was evident from the high level of enthusiasm shown by the participants. Some participants even suggested planning other sport activities on a larger scale so more women can participate, hence generating larger momentum for the cause of women’s sports.

The ambition for the event went beyond simply getting women back into sport, but was also motivated by the desire to talk to adolescent girls about physical and mental health, self-esteem, body image, and the positive health impacts of sports.

ACTED helped organised ten table tennis tournaments for women and girls in the Arab Medical University in Benghazi.

Diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, depression, and chronic anxiety are all common health issues among young women in Benghazi. During discussions in ACTED’s awareness sessions, participants spoke about how the conflict had had a clear and immediate impact on their health, most directly through reducing opportunities for women to exercise, thus creating the conditions in which such negative health issues can thrive.

ACTED’s protection team also found that women were interested in the initiative and would like to see similar events take place all over Benghazi to encourage more women to take up a sport.

The event was made possible through a collaboration between Al Rawnaq Organisation, the Arab Medical University and ACTED.

This project is funded by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

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