Winnipeg basketball tournament aims to reduce period poverty for Zimbabwe women, girls

·2 min read
Players from the Nigeria team and the African Youth Team face off Saturday as part of the Manitoba Basketball African Association's Ball for a Cause tournament in Winnipeg. (Trevor Lyons/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Players from the Nigeria team and the African Youth Team face off Saturday as part of the Manitoba Basketball African Association's Ball for a Cause tournament in Winnipeg. (Trevor Lyons/Radio-Canada - image credit)

The Manitoba Basketball African Association held its annual Ball for a Cause tournament this weekend, and Winnipeggers from across the African diaspora played to reduce period poverty for women and girls in rural Zimbabwe.

Dennis Maritim, chairperson of the Ball for a Cause tournament, previously played for team Kenya. He said the basketballers are in it for their love of the game and to support a good cause.

"None of the players even care about what the prize is.… There's no prize," he told guest host Keisha Paul in a Saturday interview with CBC Manitoba's Weekend Morning Show.

"The focus is on the cause and just to play basketball."

This year's tournament was in support of the Grace & Nelly Project. The Winnipeg non-profit has provided business and entrepreneurship training to over 150 women in rural Zimbabwe communities and has trained over 60 women and girls to make reusable menstrual pads since 2016.

Over 70 per cent of girls cannot afford menstrual products in Zimbabwe, and an estimated five per cent do not finish school due to period poverty, according to Grace & Nelly's website.

"We're happy to be a part of it," said Maritim. "Anything that we can do to put them in a position where they feel comfortable, [so] they can pursue their education and be the best they can be."

The Ball for a Cause tournament began four years ago, he said, and was launched by a group of Winnipeg friends who had immigrated from across Africa. It started as a way to play basketball for charity.

"It just grew from there," said Maritim. A Caribbean united team and a team for African youth also played in this year's tournament.

Trevor Lyons/Radio-Canada
Trevor Lyons/Radio-Canada

The type of basketball played at Ball for a Cause is "artistic," according to Maritim, while remaining true to the rules.

"There [were] a lot of 'oohs' and 'ahhs'" from the crowd," he said. "It's like a dance with a basketball in your hand."

LISTEN | Shooting hoops for young women in Zimbabwe:

Unique atmosphere

Peter Smith, who has led the Sierra Leone team since the basketball tournament began, said this year's tournament was special since people are now able to gather in more numbers after pandemic restrictions were loosened.

"I think whenever you can do something to bring the community together and have a good cause behind it is always important,'' he said in an interview Sunday with CBC.

"Empowering women and girls to further their education is always needed."

He said there are few tournaments like Ball for a Cause in Winnipeg. The games have a unique atmosphere that brings the African community together, he said, and he hopes the tournament will continue to grow.

"We're oftentimes just stuck in our own communities," he said.

"Bringing everyone together is just a wonderful experience."