January 19th, 2017

Young Changemakers

Assmaah Helal, Australia

Young Changemakers

Young refugees are highly vulnerable to social isolation in their countries of resettlement, where they have to quickly come to grips with learning a new language or adapting to a different culture. Through her work as the Programmes Operations Manager at Football United, an Australian NGO, Assmaah has demonstrated that sport can assist young refugees integrate and assimilate in their new homelands.

A former football captain herself, Sport for Development has provided Assmaah the vehicle to transfer her success on the football field to her passion: working with young people. Through a series of football-based leadership development initiatives, Assmaah and her team have helped over 6,000 young people, particularly young refugees, women and girls, become more resilient and empowered. Since 2006, Football United’s programmes have contributed to both community cohesion within refugee and immigrant communities, and to fostering greater integration across ethnic and racial divisions. 

Assmaah was also a member of an advocacy campaign that succeeded in persuading FIFA, football’s governing body, to change its rules and allow the hijab to be worn by Muslim women and girls on the football field as part of the official uniform. As Chair of the Commonwealth Youth Sport for Development and Peace working group, Assmaah co-authored a youth advocacy toolkit, supporting young people throughout the Commonwealth to explore how sport can contribute to youth development in their communities and to persuade decision-makers to adopt sports-based approaches to youth development. 

© The Commonwealth