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Malaysian women’s futsal tournament promotes healthy living


22 May 2006

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, – For hundreds of girls and women from all over Malaysia, the ‘3R’-UNICEF All Women’s Futsal Playoffs were a chance to meet and share stories, build self-esteem and, of course, compete in the largest women’s-only futsal (indoor football) tournament in Malaysia.

The games were organized by Malaysia’s innovative women’s TV programme, ‘3R’ (for ‘Respect, Relax, Respond’) and UNICEF to promote healthy living through sport. More than 500 girls and women ages 13 to 50 fielded 72 teams for the tournament. Ten teams from the Open category and six from the School category secured a place to qualify for the grand finals in April. The teams vied for cash prizes as well as the championship title.

Changing face of HIV/AIDS

The tournament was held partly to promote the UNITE FOR CHILDREN UNITE AGAINST AIDS campaign, which was launched in Malaysia in November 2005.

In tandem with the campaign, local non-governmental organizations – including the Women’s Aid Organization, All Women’s Action Malaysia, Amnesty International, Sisters in Islam and the Malaysian AIDS Council – joined with UNICEF and ‘3R’ at the games to provide information and education on women’s rights, reproductive health and HIV/AIDS.

“The face of HIV/AIDS is increasingly that of the young and most vulnerable, particularly girls,” said UNICEF’s Regional Director for East Asia and the Pacific, Anupama Rao Singh. “Girls are often at higher risk of getting infected with HIV than boys. This is partly because girls are more likely to be pressured into having sex. In addition, social attitudes to sex and sex education may make it more difficult for girls to get the information they need to protect themselves from the virus.”

Turning the tide

In Malaysia, the proportion of women reported with HIV has increased dramatically in the last decade.

“Reducing women’s vulnerability to HIV means increasing their access to information, services and resources,” said UNICEF Representative in Malaysia Gaye Phillips. “It means changing our approach to prevention. Empowering women and girls to protect themselves and their families from AIDS is key to turning the tide”

According to Ms. Phillips, sport is one platform to help girls build their self-esteem and self-awareness.

“Sports teach integrity and self-management by setting objective standards that girls can work to achieve,” she said. “We all have leadership in us, and to develop that, we need to take turns being the leader and the learner. This is especially important for girls, since sports can give them a sense of who they are.”

Besides the futsal matches, the tournament featured a host of Malaysian celebrities to entertain and lend their support to the players. Actress Nur Fazura (of ‘Gol & Gincu’ movie fame) and singers Juwita Suwito and Ferhad joined UNICEF staff, people living with HIV/AIDS and the ‘3R’ hosts (who are also UNICEF Malaysia Goodwill Ambassadors) in a friendly match between the sexes.

The women’s team won, 4-2.


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