The Fédération Ivoirienne de Rugby in partnership with the International Rugby Board and Peace and Sport - L’Organisation pour la Paix par le Sport - has launched a major new initiative to educate and sustainably reintegrate 200 young people left on the margins of society after the recent conflict in Ivory Coast.
'Viens jouer au Rugby, c'est la vie' (Come play Rugby, it is life) underscores the collaborative commitment of all parties to use the powerful values of sport as a vehicle for social cohesion. With the Judo, Cycling and Wrestling International Federations running similar projects, there is a collective approach from the sports community for positive change in the country.
More than 200 young girls and boys aged 10-18 from disadvantaged areas in Daloa, in the centre-west of the country, will benefit from the three-year programme which combines Touch Rugby to inspire and respect the basic rules of community life, respect and effort, with literacy classes to help reintegration into the educational system.
Charles Yapo, National Technical Director of the Fédération Ivoirienne de Rugby and leader of this project, said: "The Ivory Coast sincerely wants sustainable peace, and sport can help us. We want to inspire the youth of our country with the values of Rugby: solidarity, respect and hard work which are all at the very heart of Rugby. That’s why we are launching Viens jouer au Rugby, c'est la vie - it is a perfect fit."
IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset added: "Rugby has a major role to play in society. It’s a sport where its character-building values of respect, solidarity, passion, discipline and integrity are at the very heart of an inclusive sport that is for all shapes and sizes, men, women, boys and girls.
“More and more Ivorians are taking up Rugby and I am delighted that it can be tantamount to peace and reconciliation for young people in Daloa. I hope that this type of project will be duplicated around the world.”
Confédération Africaine de Rugby (CAR) President Abdelaziz Bougja said: "On behalf of CAR I am delighted that this important initiative between the IRB, Peace & Sport and the Ivorian Rugby Federation has kicked off. The project will benefit the young participants and their communities in the Ivory Coast and demonstrate to them and others the role Rugby and sport can play as a tool for developing friendships and peace while promoting health and education.”
Joël Bouzou, President and Founder of Peace and Sport, concluded: “Peace and Sport’s involvement in actions for peace-promotion through sport in Ivory Coast dates back to the first Peace and Sport International Forum in 2007.
“At the time, the Ivorian Government showed us that it was determined to make sport a basis for improved social relations in the country and convinced us to support this policy. Since then, we have worked hand in hand with local federations to reunite divided communities in the country.
“We are very happy that Rugby is now playing the role of peace-maker in Ivory Coast. This initiative demonstrates once again that the sport is a fundamental constituent to change the world.”