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Play for Peace: Building a Better Future for Prisoners in Burundi

We will support children and youth in conflict with the law by developing their life skills through structured play and sport.

Photo of Melanie Boyd
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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

Over 21% of youth under 26 years in Burundi end up in prison. Most prisons are operating beyond capacity, resulting in minimal programming in support of the holistic development of young detainees thus, limiting the potential for their successful peaceful re-integration into society. Preventing the incarceration of young people through preventative measures is therefore critical while continuing to address the needs of the young prison population. The proposed project will have two main components: improved prevention, detention, and referral of at risk youth through community-based sports and play-based learning activities, and improved life skills of young detainees in Burundi in preparation for their re-integration into society. Under Right To Play’s signature play-based learning approach, children and youth will participate in play and sport activities intentionally designed to improve key life skills. Right To Play will use its specialized resources including: "Team Up" games manual (promotes development of life skills, knowledge, attitudes and behaviours enabling peaceful resolution of conflicts and building of trust), "Sport for Development and Peace" and "Positive Discipline, Positive Development." The project will have four specific objectives: 1. Strengthen individual life skills related to leadership, communication, self-esteem and conflict resolution skills for 34,600 (F / M) children and youth 2. Increase the engagement of 80 youth clubs in conflict prevention and resolution in 32 Right To Play Burundi partner communities 3. Strengthen the capacity of 10 civil society organizations to promote the role of youth in building peaceful communities 4. Strengthen and support social reintegration efforts in favor of 4,600 (F / M) youth deprived of their liberty in 8 detention centers in Right To Play Burundi's partner provinces.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

The proposed project will reach youth (16–30 years) in communities, children (12–17 years) in conflict with law in juvenile rehabilitation centers of Ngozi, Rumonge and Ruyigi and young detainees (18–30 years) in the 8 prisons of Burundi. By training coaches and sport leaders from partner civil society organizations, 30,000 children and youth will be engaged in weekly sport and play-based activities focused on life skills development, including mediation and negotiation skills. The program will reach these target groups through direct actions of Right To Play staff and partners’ interventions via coaches and sports leaders trained by Right To Play.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

When engagement is fun and playful, it lays the foundation for a richer experience and better results. Play and sport-based activities have the power to transmit key messages and can also act as a catalyst to gather communities around topics affecting or concerning them. Play and sport have the power to increase knowledge, awareness, influence attitudes and stimulate a change in behavior, impacting young people and their environment. Right To Play will use play-based learning as a protection mechanism to prevent young people from participating in armed unrest/conflict and other harmful activities that may result in imprisonment. The project aims to strengthen capacities of young people around critical skills such as leadership and peaceful dialogue. Play-based learning will also be used to build life skills of young detainees in Burundi, preparing them for their re-integration in society.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Early Adoption: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have begun to expand the pilot for early adoption.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

Right To Play is a global organization that uses the transformative power of play to educate and empower children to overcome the effects of poverty, conflict, and disease in disadvantaged communities.

Expertise in sector

  • 3-5 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

In discussions with ICRC, Right To Play realized that young inmates had limited or no access to sports and play. Negative attitudes towards such activities centred on the environment of mistrust between wardens and prisoners and the possibility that inmates would use these activities as an opportunity to escape. After successfully piloting a "We Play for Peace" project with the International Sports Alliance, we realized our methodology could be very relevant for this challenging new context.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Violence has been a normal part of life for the current generation of children and youth in Burundi. Intolerance, fear, land disputes, forced displacement, and a cycle of revenge have resulted in high levels of antipathy towards one another. Many young people have been recruited and served as child and youth soldiers. Political unrest arising from the 2015 elections in the country resulted in 800 deaths, predominantly of youth, 100,000 internally displaced persons and almost 420,000 Burundians fleeing the country. The continued unrest has worsened peace and prosperity and created new barriers to social cohesion. Over 50,000 youth actively participated in the political turmoil in 2015. Political violence perpetrated by youth groups is “one of the most persistently worrying features of the Burundian political and security landscape” (UNICEF 2015).

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

This project will be a direct implementation by Right To Play Burundi with close partnerships and collaboration with prison guards and volunteers among the prisoners. Right To Play will train community coaches who will also support the implementation. Our approach to working alongside these important stakeholders is described in the attached report on our pilot project. The project will also support a common commitment to peace by reinforcing the capacity of 10 civil society organizations on how to increase peace attitudes using play and sport. These organizations will play the role of peace catalyzers by organising regular community mobilization events towards peace and social cohesion.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Political willingness in favor of peace: In Burundi, community leaders and authorities are committed to peace-building and strengthening social cohesion among youth. The project will contribute to further enhance this political willingness. Based on results from our pilot project, children and youth in conflict with law positively responded to sport and play and wardens have adopted regular activities into the prison’s management frameworks.

Geographic Focus

Mpimba, Muramvya, Gitega, Muyinga, Ngozi, Rumonge, Ruyigi, and Rutana in Burundi

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

36 months

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No

Attachments (1)


Report of our initial pilot project to use structured play and sport with young prisoners in Burundi.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Biruktawit

This is an interesting idea given its target. The project intends to reach out children in conflict with the law (12 -17year olds). Do you have child protection as a specific programme sector also is going to be considered as a cross cutting issue? In your package targeting 12 -17year olds, it would be interesting to know if you would deliver adolescent reproductive health education too? Your approach is very unique indeed and promising indeed.

Photo of Melanie Boyd

Dear Biruktawit. These are excellent points. Thank you so much for sharing. Right To Play treats child protection both as a cross-cutting issue and as a strategic outcome area. I think this will be very important for this initiative given the profile of the children we intend to reach. The idea of integrating adolescent reproductive health education is an excellent one. We have a core resource called "My Life, My Plan" which is designed to use age appropriate games to educate children about their sexual and reproductive health as well as about healthy relationships. I think it would need to be contextualized for this particular context and for this particular group of children. Thank you so much for the suggestion.

Photo of Claire

Sport is such a powerful way of creating change and empowering youn people. Great idea!

Claire from Footsteps To Inspire