The Maasai Cricket Warriors are acting as role models and ambassadors in their communities where they are actively campaigning against retrogressive and harmful cultural practices such as FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) and early childhood marriages, which are contributing to the spread and increase in the cases of HIV/AIDS. They are also fighting for the rights of women in order to eradicate discrimination against women in Maasai communities. Through sports participation they are promoting healthier lifestyles and spreading awareness about HIV/AIDS Awareness amongst youth.
The Maasai Cricket Warriors team helped support the International Cricket Council’s THINK WISE AIDS awareness campaign by hosting a mini-cricket tournament on November 25, 2011 in Laikipia, Kenya, ahead of World AIDS Day, which is celebrated across the globe on the 1st December, by delivering HIV prevention messages to children. The Maasai Cricket Warriors have been trained as Level One cricket coaches and as well as providing technical support to players, they also deliver important social messages such as HIV prevention.
The Think Wise campaign, which is a partnership between the ICC, UNAIDS and UNICEF, helps deliver HIV prevention messages through cricket.
The cricket development programme within these Maasai communities encourages participation by anyone irrespective of gender, age, race and HIV status.
The cricket coaches integrate the HIV/AIDS message into their coaching activities and regularly inform participating children and youth about the dangers of HIV/AIDS and the importance of leading safe and healthy lifestyles in order to prevent the disease. This is achieved through emphasis of the ABC approach – abstinence, being faithful to one’s partner and using protection (condoms).
The Maasai Cricket Warriors have created a unique slogan for HIV/AIDS Awareness:
A BALL is my SPEAR
and a BAT is my SHIELD
in the FIGHT against A I D S
In Kenya there are about 1.4 million adults living with HIV/AIDS. This represents a prevalence rate of 7.4% of Kenyans between the ages of 15 – 64. More women are infected with HIV/AIDS (8.7%) compared to men (5.6%). In Rift Valley, the prevalence rate is 7.0% with that of females being 8.2% and that of males being 5.5%. (Kenya Aids Indicator Survey-KAIS)
The larger Laikipia District has a prevalence rate of 7.4%. Women are more infected than men. (M.O.H Laikipia).
This can be attributed to various cultural issues such as polygamy, FGM and early forced marriages and poor education. These mainly affect women and girls who often lack the social and economic power and the negotiating skills to refuse sex or to demand condom use. Adolescent girls and young women are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence and exploitation, which increases their risks of being infected by HIV/AIDS and exposes them to additional risks.
Sport has been identified as a key tool in the fight against HIV/AIDS amongst youth and adolescents. The assumption is that sport may facilitate their access to the HIV/AIDS message because sport is not only a favourite pastime, but is also considered to be a good way of promoting respect for diversity, tolerance, non-discrimination and solidarity.
Participation in sport benefits people living with HIV/AIDS. Moderate exercise strengthens the immune system, better equips the body to fight HIV and may delay the onset of AIDS. Sport also provides an arena for social inclusion and support, involving HIV-positive sportsmen and women proves extremely valuable in normalizing HIV and fighting stigma. Sportsmen, and in particular successful athletes, are role models – their voice is hence another way to drive home prevention and care messages.
The Maasai Cricket Warriors include activities such as life skill training, HIV/AIDS education programmes, counseling, peer education programmes, and
sensitization activities. Cricket is being used as a tool for creating awareness, improving knowledge and changing attitudes to HIV affected people.
With sufficient support and funding we hope that in the near future the cricket coaches will be trained as VCT (Voluntary Counseling and Testing) personnel and will serve a dual function in the programme. As cricket coaches they will build close relationships with the players and through this a bond of trust will be developed. It is hoped that through these close relationships the effectiveness of the HIV/AIDS education and awareness will be increased