A UK-based charity which uses netball to teach young people in Africa and Asia about sexual and reproductive health has received a prestigious award from the Prime Minister.
Monica Thandi, Chief Executive and founder of the Netball Development Trust, and Julie Smith, Head of Development, were awarded the Prime Minister’s Points of Light Award, which recognises outstanding UK volunteers.
Monica and Julie were presented with their awards by the Vice President of Uganda, His Excellency Hon. Edward Ssekandi, at the seventh Uganda-UK Convention in London.
In a personal letter to Monica and Julie, Prime Minister Theresa May said: “Through the Netball Trust, you are using sport to unite communities, empower children, and increase access to vital services and information.
“As a result of your dedicated volunteering and fundraising, you are having a positive impact on the lives of thousands of young people living in less developed countries.”
Monica said: “We are extremely honoured to receive the Prime Minister’s Points of Light Award. We feel humble and incredibly proud and are so grateful for the recognition for our work in Africa and Asia.
“We love that we can share our passion for netball with so many less privileged girls and boys in Uganda and Kenya and through sport we are helping them to stay in school – sport is a universal language and has the power to change the world.
“We have built netball programmes in various towns and are proud of our volunteers running the training sessions that so many kids to benefit from.To date we have reached over 10,000 children.”
She revealed: “In 2014 we learned that some of our girls are missing five to seven school days every month because of their periods. This is due to lack of washrooms, lack of sanitary pads (using leaves and rags instead) and bullying by peers.
“The continuous absence from school makes it hard for themto catch up and stay engaged in school and partly accounts for girls dropping out of school. We also realised that there was no conversation around sexual and reproductive health or their rights in this area.
“We now donate pads to 240 girls on the programme, and have tracked that they are no longer missing school, their academic performance is improved and they are feeling more comfortable and confident in themselves.
“We are also working with partners to deliver a sexual and reproductive health curriculum in our netball sessions where young people (both girls and boys) can talk about teenage pregnancies, menstruation, gender issues and healthy relationships. We are empowering these young people with knowledge and skills to make informed choices to improve their lives.
“We sincerely thank each of our volunteers, mentors, trustees and supporters for helping us reach a stage where we can be proud to receive this award as a mark of our collective achievement. There is still so much we can do to help these young people become the future selves they want to be. More netball, more sexual health awareness and more partnerships.”