Beyond Sport and WWE present the 2020 WWE Courageous Use of Sport winners.
Sediqa Rezaei, 17, Australia
Sediqa has come from a challenging background and is a young Muslim woman that lives in Western Sydney. Sediqa has been involved in the Stand Tall women's programs, including participating in the leadership and elite Stand Tall All-Stars programs. The programs gave her the opportunity to engage with more experienced and older women who also taught the younger players how to play basketball, which some had never done. As newly arrived refugees, some of the players had never played sport prior to arriving in Australia.
Sediqa was a natural leader for the other women in the program and is now training to become a paid coach through the Stand Tall coaches employment initiative. Sediqa was so passionate about basketball that she advocated for young Muslim women playing basketball and became one of the first women to receive official permission to play the game with a hijab, which until recently was not allowed under official rules, preventing many women not only in Australia, but even at the global level. Sediqa advocated for this change in Australia and played a significant role in ensuring this rule did not prevent other young Muslim women from competing in the sport.
Sediqa has dealt with many challenges -- both social and personal over the last few years -- and has risen above any blockage or challenge to play the game of basketball. She has been committed to developing her skills both on and off the court through the programs along with new leadership skills, increasing her confidence to become a leader in her community. She has been able to embrace the very diverse group of women and has learned about other cultures through the Stand Tall program, including meeting culturally diverse and Aboriginal women, learning about other cultures and committing to overcoming social and racial barriers. At times travelling on public transport for more than two hours to access some programs, she has been committed to her development and gathered many young women to participate in the programs. Sediqa has been identified as one of the first generation Stand Tall Coaches and is set to start to lead other young women through the Stand Tall programs achieving both on and off the court. She will become the first Stand Tall coach that was a former participant.
Marian Crisley A. Yman, 18, Phillipines
Yman is an 18-year-old aspiring cardiologist and Fundlife coach. After being severely impacted by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 and having to separate from her parents, Yman was left with traumatic memories which she still works to overcome. Yman first joined Fundlife at the age of 14 where she learned to face her fears, which now enables her to control her emotions and manage her stress.
Yman first discovered her love for football after watching the Fundlife coaches in action, seeing them not only coaching players but also teaching them lifeskills that will stay with the young people for the rest of their lives. Being part of Fundlife enabled Yman to have the opportunity to grow as an individual, gaining more confidence in herself. Fundlife also gave Yman, at the age of 16, the opportunity to travel to Russia in order to take part in a training workshop hosted by FIFA. At the age of 17, Yman became an assistant coach and eventually went on to become a fully fledged Fundlife coach.
Yman has helped coach girls in football, but she also teaches them about their rights as young women in the Philippines. During the COVID-19 lockdown, Yman has been creating stay-at-home session videos that are posted on Fundlife’s social media platforms to ensure young people in lockdown are kept entertained and continue to be inspired. In addition to creating stay-at-home videos, Yman has also been helping in the soup kitchen and feeding programs organized by Fundlife in Palo Leyte and has organized girls empowerment classes where she teaches younger female players why their voice is so important and why it should be heard. She is a very positive role model for our young people and enjoys putting a smile on each and every one of their faces.
Dickens Omondi Odhiambo, 23, Kenya
Dickens was born and raised in Kibera, the largest urban slum in Africa. The 23-year-old father of one is the second born in a family of four. Dickens' parents separated when he was barely old enough to comprehend it. His mom was forced to hawk groceries in Nairobi Central Business District to make ends meet for the young family. His mom later remarried due to cultural pressure, but his stepdad, who was a casual labourer, died in 2017. Dickens did not have time to rest let alone play during his childhood. Along with his two brothers, he was forced to join his mother in the streets to hawk groceries, denying him ample time to study. This experience predisposed him to numerous risks.
“I did not have time to play as a kid. I would leave school, drop my bag and rush to town to sell groundnuts, and I would be back home at 10 p.m. I did not get a chance to be a child; I feel like I was exposed to adulthood so early. What pains me most is that my brothers dropped out of school because they could not cope doing business and staying in school at the same time.”
Dickens attended local primary schools in the Kibera slums and later transitioned to a local secondary school in Western Kenya. He had a turbulent stay in school due to the struggles of paying school fees. His final year was spent out of school due to lack of school fees, and he only went back to sit for his final exams. His final grades were adversely impacted by the economic struggles his family faced, slimming his chances of accessing higher education or decent work.
A third-year employability academy enrollee at Africa Yoga Project, Dickens is a yoga teacher with a great passion for driving social change in his community. His trademark smile and down-to-earth demeanor set him apart from a traditional yoga teacher. He has worked with numerous youth groups in initiatives around sports and arts. He has been involved in countless community initiatives as a volunteer with a number of local and international community-based and non-profit organizations as a peer educator, coach, trainer and mentor. Dickens has used sports to transform the lives of many youth in Kibera where he teaches yoga. He has volunteered with NGO Shining Hope for Communities, Carolina for Kibera, Plan International and I Choose Life Africa, among others. Despite the numerous challenges, Dickens is an outstanding wellbeing community leader who has demonstrated striking resilience and is determined to re-write his story.
“Neither my past nor the many challenges I have faced will stop me from being who I want to be. I will work tirelessly to exploit my full potential.”
Shaymaa, 23, Iraq
Shaymaa is a 23-year-old community activist and volunteer. Born in Sinjar in the Nineveh Plains of Northern Iraq, her family fled ISIS in 2014, taking up residence in Baharka IDP camp in Erbil. Though faced with severe marginalization and the challenges of living in a camp, Shaymaa has maintained a positive attitude - driven by a desire to improve the lives of the children and young people around her, who have also been displaced and traumatized by extremism and conflict. Shaymaa has been with Free to Run since its pilot team in Iraq was established in 2018. She began as a participant, graduating to the role of Community Development Leader upon completing the program. As a Community Development Leader, Shaymaa recruited her own team of 20 girls and young women from within Baharka IDP Camp, teaching them communication, conflict resolution and leadership skills through Free to Run’s Life Skills through Sports (LSS) curriculum.
Shaymaa has now progressed to the position of Free to Run coach, leading a team of Syrian refugee girls through LSS and sports sessions in Erbil. Shaymaa represented Free to Run in the 2020 With & for Girls Award Ceremony in London and accepted the award for the MENA region on behalf of Free to Run. Outside of Free to Run, Shaymaa is active with several organizations where she volunteers with IDP children, works to unite people from different ethno-religious backgrounds, and organizes an annual book fair in Erbil amongst other things. She gave TEDx talk on her work at the first TEDx conference in Mosul in 2020. Shaymaa is a keen advocate for children’s rights and education, but her passion is enabling girls and young women to participate in sports and other activities which demonstrate their ability and potential as leaders.
Shaymaa has persevered through some of the most difficult circumstances a person can undergo to become an advocate for women's rights and a community activist. When she joined Free to Run, she had been living in an internal displacement camp in Erbil for four years and was struggling to find her way out of a forced marriage. Shaymaa endured watching several of her family members and neighbors murdered while trying to escape ISIS. (Please keep this information above confidential for Shaymaa's own safety). Despite these extremely adverse circumstances, she signed up to join a running team and quickly stood out as one of the most positive team members. During her year as a participant, she regularly offered to help recruit other girls and speak with participants' families who were considering pulling their daughter from programming. She then volunteered as a CDL and rose to a coach position. Shaymaa is no ordinary coach; she actively problem solves with Free to Run staff to find ways to engage more women and girls in our programs and has fast become the favorite coach to the participants.
Mattheus Oliveira, 23, Brazil
Following a rugby training, Matheus accompanied UmRio staff through the MdC favela when he spotted community members laughing at a group of men engaging in substance abuse.
“One of those men is my father”, he said to the program team. “When he does that, I just ignore him […] the man he becomes isn’t my father”.
Matheus’ courageous openness to discuss such an intimate insight into his upbringing depicts just part of the challenges he has had to overcome in life. After Matheus failed his last chance to graduate from secondary school in 2014, his academic journey was in doubt. Upon joining UmRio in 2015, he enrolled in a high school degree course and started studying English, speaking at an intermediate level within a year. His dedication to improve led him to refine his rugby skills too, as he often sought opportunities to talk with overseas volunteer players.
It also affirmed his commitment to learning more generally, motivating him to complete UmRio’s university preparatory program after earning his secondary diploma. When Matheus travelled outside of Rio for the first time, his passion for rugby and English made him seem completely at home addressing a crowd of 30,000 at Twickenham Stadium during an Oxford-Cambridge varsity match.
"I didn't have expectations for life," Matheus said in a recent Globo television interview. Asked what the biggest change for him has been since joining UmRio, he replied "confidence." What's more, Matheus believes this growth in confidence extends to the broader community; "People look at the NGO, at the hill, at the school and think, 'talented people are there; special people are there; people who win are there.'"
Matheus has demonstrated time and again that he can draw from his personal journey overcoming adversity and poverty to inspire other children and young people in his community through his passion for rugby and languages. Most recently, Matheus has overcome more than his own personal challenges, through playing an instrumental role in the design, development and implementation of UmRio's remote programming (in sports and English language programs), and supporting the delivery of UmRio’s food security and digital inclusion initiatives during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the past five months, Matheus has been proactive in completing basic training with UmRio’s medical team, in order to conduct the responsible delivery of food to over 80 families, but also to help raise awareness on health and safety measures amongst community members. With the average per-capita income in Morro do Castro lower than 1.5 USD per day, Matheus has taken it upon himself to help identify the hardest to reach and most at-risk families, many of whom have fallen from the radar of social benefits schemes. Through a partnership with the Federal University Fluminense’s Rugby Team – who Matheus had represented prior to his admission to UFF – Matheus has also actively sought to contribute to UmRio’s Theory of Change by reigniting the desire of childhood friends, who, like him, had been alienated from the formal education system, to complete their education and even pursue further education. Matheus’ rugby for development journey is representative of his courage and perseverance in the face of adversity.