Our ISA family is growing. Meet Aboubacar Coulibali, who recently became the chair of the Advisory Board of ISA’s regional office in West Africa.
“My name is Aboubacar Coulibaly. Friends and colleagues call me Abou. I was born in Bamako in 1971. As a child I have lived in many places across Mali. My father was working as a soldier, and that is why we moved every time he had a new duty-station.”
Youth empowerment through sports
“It was in 2012 when I saw the power of sports with my own eyes. It was just after the coup by armed groups from the north, which was followed by chaos, which lasted until the progress of the armed groups was stopped.”
“By then I was working at Right to Play, and we tried to find a way to support teachers and students to emotionally handle what has happened to them. And speaking out is an important step doing that. And so we facilitated teachers and students to speak out as a form of group therapy.”
“There was this teen girl who was very traumatised. She did not want to speak. And even did not leave the house. So, we decided to invite some teens from the neighbourhood to come and play in her backyard. At first, she did not join, but she did watch the games. And after a few weeks’ time she started to join the games. Another six months later she was the one leading sports activities in her community. It is amazing what sports can do!”
Sports can teach peace skills
“I was thinking by myself if sport can be so powerful, I want to start advocating for sports for youth and education. Moreover, because there is a need in West Africa to provide young people with the skills and opportunities for peacebuilding. To date, some groups have remained fighting. And youth – attracted by available opportunities – fall victim by joining jihadism, or being a victim of violence that comes with it. It is the same for Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.”
“As an educational professional, with years of experience in early-childhood, education and sports projects, working for organisations like Save the Children and Plan International, I am passionate to be able to add to ISA’s mission to empower young people through sports.”
“The Advisory Board already started to make plans for seizing more opportunities, promoting the power of sports in the region, also in schools, and then growing our approach. I really do believe ISA can add value in the fragile states of West Africa.”
The power of sports
“Also on a personal basis I do love sports. When I was younger, I loved to play football and basketball, two immense popular sports in Mali. And I was running in the school competition. These days even though I am busy, I manage to walk every day for 30 minutes.
When I tell people I am 52 years old, they are astonished and they will tell me I don’t look like my age. And I will tell them that this is also what sports does.”