Football for human rights

Citi FM reporter Erasmus Kwaw and jhr intern Shawn Hayward worked together to produce a series that marries soccer and human rights in Ghana

Listen to the radio documentary here: Hometown Heroes: Education in C.K. Akunnor’s hometown

By Erasmus Kwaw and Shawn Hayward

Football is a national passion in Ghana, and that passion peaked during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa when Ghana was one goal away from making it to the semi-finals.

Ghanaian footballers like Michael Essien and Asamoah Gjan were catapulted from well-known athletes to national heroes for taking Ghana further in football’s greatest tournament than ever before. They became heroes in their home towns and across the country.

At Citi FM in Accra, Ghana, we came up with an idea that developed from this World Cup hype—use football’s high profile to spread the ideal of human rights to a wider audience.

The idea developed from a drive to combine sports and human rights coverage so human rights content could reach new audiences and as a way to find unique angles on sports features.

Some footballers in Ghana come from small communities where access to basic human rights such as health care and education is lacking. We asked the athletes to describe where they came from and the challenges they and their friends had to overcome growing up. We collaborated to produce Hometown Heroes, a series of sports stories that let the public in on the history of their favourite players and highlighted the challenges in their communities.

People want to know the men behind the uniforms. Where do they come from? How was their childhood? What’s their story? The goal was to answer these questions by producing a series with a human rights focus.

The men in the stories include both current and former football greats. They talk about what basic necessities their communities lack and how they were still able to excel in their sport.

More importantly, Hometown Heroes also talks to politicians, chiefs and school officials in the communities to hear their views about human rights issues and how they can be mitigated or eradicated.

So far, we’ve completed the first two parts of the series, starting with a 10-minute radio documentary about former Ghanaian national team captain C.K. Akunnor, from Ningo, where children were missing school because their parents couldn’t pay school fees. You can listen to the piece above.

The next plan is to continue Hometown Heroes as a television series. Ideally we’d like the production team to go with the athletes to their hometowns and shoot the scenes to get the needed impact.

The right combination of sports and human rights can expose fans to a side of their most-loved players they have never seen, bring human rights issues to the fore and give footballers a chance to help the communities where they grew up.

The hope is that people’s passion for football can be transformed into a desire to provide every Ghanaian with the basic amenities needed for a healthy and happy life.

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