Since the start of the partnership in 2013, Just Play – the Oceania Football Confederation’s sport for development programme – has worked alongside UNICEF on several projects, to reach thousands of children through the powerful medium of sport.
Just Play Head of Social Responsibility and International Relations Franck Castillo, says continuing to work alongside UNICEF will ensure the Just Play Programme reaches new levels in 2016.
“We are very pleased to have signed on to continue working alongside UNICEF, as the partnership has delivered many positive results for children,” Castillo says.
“Working alongside this globally renowned organisation provides OFC and the Just Play programme with a powerful platform, helping us to reach more children across the region. Additionally UNICEF’s reputation and history gives our work an added level of credibility and recognition internationally.”
Isabelle Austin, Deputy Representative for UNICEF Pacific, reinforces this positive impact saying: “The partnership with OFC and the Just Play programme is recognized by UNICEF as a critical entry point through which to engage children in the Pacific.”
“By merging the power and potential of sport with broader development objectives, around health, social inclusion, gender and emergencies, Just Play has become an integral part of UNICEF’s efforts to focus on the holistic development of children and communities.”
In 2014 OFC and UNICEF joined forces to promote the “Kick Dengue Out of Fiji” campaign, which ran alongside OFC’s premier international club competition, the OFC Champions League. Later that year Just Play became one of five social responsibility campaigns selected to be part of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, gaining a considerable boost in profile and funding as a result.
In the wake of Cyclone Pam, UNICEF and OFC again used the OFC Champions League as a platform to campaign from, joining forces to support recovery efforts in Vanuatu.
Castillo says working together with UNICEF offers mutual benefits, with Just Play taking advantage of UNICEF’s knowledge in the field of sport for development while Just Play, in turn, offers a gateway into football in Oceania.
“We are not experts in the area of health and wellness, gender, children’s rights, child protection or emergency response, therefore the knowledge and experience UNICEF brings to the table has been vital in helping to improve our work for children,” he says.
“It has also helped us to better monitor and evaluate our work and understand the impact our programme is having on children in the region.”
“We see football as an ideal platform to support the dissemination of positive life messages for children throughout the Oceania region.”
Just Play and UNICEF will launch their latest campaign, targeted at ending violence towards children and women, at the 2016 OFC U-17 Women’s Championship in the Cook Islands in January next year.