A Squatting Scholar seeking to understand the strength of the sport within the humanitarian community. (5 min read)
Zimbabwe community center gyms. Lift4Life powerlifting. A little Canadian lifter taking a leap of faith and off to learn. That’s me!
So, what’s with the country of Zimbabwe?
Humanitarian concerns in Zimbabwe are dire, and over the last decade, Zimbabwe has experienced a number of unprecedented economic, environmental and political shocks and stresses, many of which will have long-lasting impacts. Poverty, food insecurity, malnutrition, and environmental degradation are serious challenges in Zimbabwe (particularly in the community in focus) and basic commodities and services are beyond reach for much of the population. According to the most recent Humanitarian Assistance Report conducted by UNICEF, 72 percent of the population live on less than US$1.25 per day “struggling to meet their most basic requirements.” This situation provides a unique opportunity for innovation to address needs.
Within the humanitarian sector in the past decade, considerable attention has been given to what has come to be defined as the international ‘Sport for Development and Peace’ movement. This was especially evident in 2005, declared by the UN as the International Year of Sport and Physical Education, recognizing sport to be a cost-effective and functional tool to achieve humanitarian objectives. Participation in the initiative has grown substantially to include intergovernmental bodies such as the UN and the World Bank, national governments worldwide, as well as non-governmental and civil society organizations. These actors, mostly from the Global North, in different ways are involved in funding, policy development, implementation and evaluation of various thematic areas such as health, education, and resilience. Under this umbrella, Zimbabwe has a number of sports initiatives and organizations; however, lifting weights is a very new concept. In fact, I have yet to come across anywhere in the world where any sort of weight lifting /powerlifting has been utilized, making Lift4life and the community gyms in Zimbabwe a unique opportunity to understand the role, impact, and utility this particular sport may play.
The grassroots existence and growing engagement of local initiatives in relation to lifting in the Glen Norah community, as well as the joint Zimbabwe-America powerlifting initiatives, illustrates the motivation and desire to use powerlifting to address needs within the community. Based on my preliminary skype discussions with stakeholders and participants involved, lifting weights is providing a means to address public health issues, educate youth who are not in school, provide safety, as well as address drug usage and abuse due to the fact that it is a drug-tested sport. Furthermore, there is evidence that the initiative is creating income and livelihood opportunities including coach positions, employment of locals to build equipment, as well as events in the community that facilitate income and critical dialogue. A key limitation of this research is that it is very specific to a particular community in Zimbabwe, and it is important to not make generalizations. However, by documenting the types of activities that are having an effect on people’s lives, I hope to be able to provide a framework for others who wish to be involved or implement similar projects around the world.
But I don’t want to bore you with all my Nicola nerdiness right from the start!
I am hoping to share a few more blog posts during my 3 weeks in Zimbabwe, as well as after as I piece together my research and findings. I invite you to follow along in all the lifting and learning! Feel free to also connect or reach out with any comments, ideas, questions along the way. You can follow me on Instagram at @storiesnotselfies or shoot me a message on facebook or email at firstname.lastname@example.org Forever #LiftingAndLearning and #TravellingAndTraining
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