Beyond sports: Enabling life skills for youth
Addressing violence against women and girls through sports psychology
From left to right are Lloyd Distant, former president of Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC); Samantha Chantrelle, managing director, Change Makers (Spotlight Implementing Partners); Melanie Subratie, board member of the JCC; Jahmel Brown and Shawn Connery, Respect Jamaica ambassadors; Warren McDonald, chairman of the JCC Sameer Younis Foundation; Dr Scott Hamilton, clinical psychologist, Elite Sports Psychology; Monique Long, UN Women MCO-Caribbean planning & coordination specialist; Jason Younis, son of Sameer Younis, founder of the JCC SYF, displays the tablets presented to the Respect Jamaica ambassadors.

THE Jamaica Chamber of Commerce Sameer Younis Foundation (JCC-SYF) launched its latest development intervention targeting at-risk youth using sports psychology, in collaboration with the UN Women Multi-Country Office (MCO) – Caribbean under the EU-funded Spotlight Initiative. The project, titled 'Beyond Sports: Enabling Life Skills for Youth', is a multi-pronged approach that will engage youth through sports to address some of the psychosocial factors that increase their vulnerability and at-risk behaviours.

In partnership with Elite Sports Psychology and Respect Jamaica, the project will target women, men, boys and girls ages 15-24 years in Kingston and St Andrew. It will address psychosocial factors such as improving youth's mental well-being, stimulating behaviour change to promote positive life outcomes, and the choice of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to solve conflicts before they escalate to violence. The project will also focus on promoting more equitable gender roles in our society with a view to reducing gender-based violence (GBV).

Speaking at the launch on July 7 at the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, Monique Long, UN Women MCO-Caribbean planning and coordination specialist, applauded this innovative approach to addressing violence against women and girls in Jamaica using sports.

"We are pleased to partner with the JCC-SYF on this groundbreaking programme, which reminds us of the importance of using creativity and innovation as we strive to make an impact. Gender-based violence continues to be a pervasive issue with significant consequences. Accordingly, one of our primary areas of work under the Spotlight Initiative is working with communities and engaging young people in the spaces they occupy towards preventing GBV. This intervention is key as it employs sports as a tool to reach youth and it aligns with the UN Women Foundation's programme which is a participant-centred, violence prevention programme for young people that encourages discourse on key concepts including gender, gender socialisation, gender hierarchies and constructions of masculinity and femininity, and explores their impact on relationships," she said.

Dr JS Hamilton, head of Elite Sports Psychology, a team of licensed clinical psychologists based in Jamaica and Miami that improves the performance of athletes, entertainers, sports franchises and organisations, outlined the methods that would be used to implement the project.

"The team and doctoral students have identified high schools where we will be doing psychological evaluations using models and tools on the students," Dr Hamilton said. "There will be pre-testing, baseline assessments and progress reviews. The high school students will have to communicate with the psychologists daily (graduate students registered to the Jamaica Psychological Association) by SMS to indicate that activities have been completed while also documenting daily in individual journals."

Dr Hamilton also added that Elite Sports Psychology has been working with at-risk youth for many years in other countries.

"As a proud Jamaican, I am looking forward to bringing the tools we have learned are successful in helping youth reach their top potential. We have all gone through a difficult time these last few years with the pandemic, and now more than ever, our young people need the psychosocial help to assist them in navigating their situations. We are proud to be a partner in this project."

Samantha Chantrelle, managing director of Change Makers, and Respect Jamaica ambassador, further explained the importance of the Beyond Sports project.

"I have been working with at-risk youth for over 25 years, and this project is a culmination of what I consider to be the greatest ways to make an impact with our youth. Psychosocial skills are critical to anyone's success, but for kids at risk, even more so. Together with a focus on sports by an organisation that has worked with some of our best athletes, I see a recipe that will attract the kids to be a part of something great."

The project will be conducted within the framework of the prevention pillar of the ongoing EU-funded Spotlight Initiative Project in Jamaica, which focuses on gender inequitable social norms, attitudes and behaviours change at community and individual levels to prevent violence against women and girls and harmful practices.

Delivering opening remarks at the launch, chairman of the JCC-SYF Warren McDonald stated that the Beyond Sports project will build on the JCC-SYF's mandate to address social challenges through development and partnerships among the private sector, government, and civil society organisations.

"In continuing our mandate to uplift our youth and our organisation's commitment to women empowerment, we are proud to collaborate with our partners in this latest initiative. We here at JCC-SYF are excited about this partnership, particularly as this project epitomises the organisation's long-standing commitment to uplift our most vulnerable youth and making strides towards women's empowerment," he said.

Jamaica is one of five Caricom member states (the others being Belize, Grenada, Guyana, and Trinidad & Tobago) receiving direct support from the EU-UN Global Spotlight Initiative to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.

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