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A New Chapter Opens in Dzaleka / IJF.org


After five days in Zambia, the second leg of the IJF Judo for Peace tour in Southern Africa stopped in Malawi, where a programme was launched in 2018 to help refugees residing in the Dzaleka refugee camp, 40 km from the country’s capital, Lilongwe.

Established in 1994 by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in a former political prison, the camp today accommodates more than 50,000 people, although it was initially planned for only 9,000 displaced people.

The Judo for Peace programme in Malawi, led by the Malawi Judo Association under the aegis of the IJF, is now integrated into the tripartite project that includes Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi. This visit was therefore planned to take stock of the situation in order to assess the evolution of the programme, considering the coming years.

At 9 a.m. on Saturday 20th of April, everyone was ready to welcome the delegation of the IJF, the Southern African Judo Confederation, the national federation and several distinguished guests including the Ambassador of Japan to Malawi, representatives of UNHCR, the Ministry of Sports and JICA (Japan International Co-operation Agency), among others.

The tone was immediately set with the remarkable performance of the Burundi drum troupe, Amahoro (Peace), made up of refugees living in Dzaleka. In the wake of this introduction which made hearts and bodies vibrate, the Dzaleka judoka demonstrated their knowledge of the sport brilliantly. One of the strong elements of the demonstration was that of the young girls from the group who presented how, thanks to judo, they could combat violence against women. In addition to the self-defence techniques that brought applause, through their performance they demonstrated that through judo they could gain enough self-confidence to combat prejudice and sexist attacks.

The demonstration was followed by a judo session led by Judo for Peace Director, Nicolas Messner, who emphasised the need to work together on and off the tatami in order to create the conditions for a better life.

The day was still far from over, because the young judoka took the JFP director for a tour to the very heart of the camp, where he was able to observe and discover the living conditions of the residents. There is no doubt that judo has an extraordinary power to breathe life into a population whose only horizon is the confines of the camp.

Finally, the afternoon was devoted to teamwork, bringing together everyone’s abilities so that, after six years of operation, the Judo for Peace programme can open a new chapter in a story already punctuated with success.

There is no doubt that the residents of Dzaleka are confronted with the limits of their social and administrative situation often. Once again, as was the case last week in Mayukwayukwa in Zambia, judo provides proof that thanks to the values of mutual aid and mutual prosperity that it conveys, hope is available to those whom had lacked it the most.

The shared smiles and exchanges that took place in Dzaleka are only the tip of an iceberg that represents the in-depth work undertaken both locally and internationally. Judo for Peace is a philosophy, but a concrete philosophy which provides solutions and which generates a positive wind. Some of the beneficiaries in the months and years to come will be able to participate in more and more events directly linked to local communities. The inclusiveness of all is indeed at the heart of the development plan established by the three countries and everyone should be able to find something suitable and interesting for themselves. Some judoka will move into teaching judo while others may become sports leaders.

This is the logic of the programme: to give everyone the chance to grow in judo and through judo. The Dzaleka judoka can be proud of their accomplishments. The national federation and the regional confederation can also puff out their chests because the work done in recent years is now bearing fruit. A new chapter opens now and it promises to be colourful.



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