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Updated: Oct 2, 2023

In a groundbreaking moment, the Maheba Refugee Settlement Camp in Kalumbila District of the North-Western Province of Zambia played host to the 2023 Inclusive Sports Festival following the expansion of the event to three different locations this year. This event marked a significant milestone as it brought together over 200 school students and 100 young athletes, aged between 5 and 15 years, who are part of the Judo for Peace project under the Judo Association of Zambia (JAZ). The festival event was part of a three-part series commemorating the theme, "Unity in Diversity: Celebrating Inclusivity & Environmental Sustainability" in North-Western, Livingstone and Lusaka, respectively.

A photo taken after Maheba settlement hosts a successful Inclusive Sports Festival event.
A photo taken after Maheba settlement hosts a successful Inclusive Sports Festival event.

The event at Maheba Refugee Camp was characterized by a vibrant display of Judo demonstrations, matches, poetry, and cultural entertainment acts by the local participants. It celebrated change, diversity, and unity, emphasizing the power of sports to bring people together. The festival went beyond sports, aiming to empower young athletes through educational materials such as books, pencils, and sharpeners which were distributed to the athletes facilitated by the National Olympic Committee of Zambia (NOCZ) Marketing and Finance Commission. This initiative highlights the commitment to holistic development and the well-being of the participants.

Young Judo Athletes during Judo matches.
Young Judo Athletes during Judo matches.

Young Atheletes receiving school supplies in Maheba settlement
Young Athletes receiving school supplies in Maheba settlement.

NOCZ Secretary-General Boniface Kambikambi, expressed immense gratitude for the dedication exhibited by all partners in making the festival a success.

"This year's festival marks a milestone, as it is expected to see a remarkable thirty-six percent increase in participants compared to the previous year. This surge speaks volumes about the impact that this festival has had on our society, and the growing recognition of its importance," he said.

The SG added that the dedication and enthusiasm displayed by all those involved reflect the core values that the event upholds – inclusivity, unity, and sustainability.

Commissioner for Refugees Prof. Prosper N'gandu, guest of honour District Administration Officer Frank Siatwinda for Kalumbila District, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Head of the Solwezi office Pablo Vizcaino, JAZ General Secretary Mabvuto N’guni, and JAZ General Treasurer Henry Mfula were also in attendance. Others were Maheba Boarding School Head Teacher Martin Mwanawina, Refugee Officer for Maheba Refugee Camp Castrol Singelegele, and Mirriam Shambweka from the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services.

The Inclusive Sports Festival, now in its seventh year, has received unwavering support from the Norwegian Olympic and Paralympic Committee, Confederation of Sports, and various local partners in Zambia. This longstanding support has allowed the festival to grow and make a lasting impact.

Zambia's tourist capital, Livingstone, hosted the second part of the festival at Bharat Grounds on Thursday 28th September 2023. It was graced by City Mayor Her Worship Constance Muleabai, who commended the collaborative efforts that made the 2023 Sports Festival a resounding success, applauding its expansion to three different provinces and making it accessible to a broader audience which she described as a testament to the unwavering commitment of all involved partners.

"What makes this year's festival even more remarkable is its expansion to three locations – an endeavour that showcases our commitment to reaching every corner of Zambia and leaving no one behind. the participants in the Livingstone activities are numbering around 250, which include individuals of diverse abilities, backgrounds, and dreams, who have converged here to prove that sport is a universal language that transcends barriers and unites us in the spirit of camaraderie," she said.

Livingstone,  Bharat Grounds.
Livingstone, Bharat Grounds.

Spearheaded by Response Network, the Livingstone event attracted 250 participants, including children with disabilities who showcased their abilities in various sports and non-sporting activities.

The final leg of the festival took place in Lusaka and involved environmental sustainability activities, including a cleanup exercise. Over 450 children from diverse communities participated in this event, held at the Bank of Zambia Sports Complex. The cleanup exercise aimed to instill a culture of environmental conservation and sustainability.

A differently-abled young girl joyfully participating in sack race.
A differently-abled young girl joyfully participating in sack race.

Guest of honor Agatha Banda Director General of the Zambia Agency for Persons with Disabilities (ZAPD) stressed the importance of environmental conservation, aligning perfectly with the festival's theme. She highlighted that environmental sustainability is a responsibility we owe to future generations, and the event's incorporation of environmental consciousness sets an example for all to follow.

"Environmental sustainability is not an afterthought; it is a responsibility we owe to the generations that will follow. Our connection to nature is inseparable, and the choices we make today will determine the world we leave behind. By weaving environmental consciousness into this festival, we are setting an example for all to follow, showing that our commitment to a healthier planet goes hand in hand with our commitment to a better society," she said.

She further commended the local partners involved in the planning and hosting of the festival and their collective efforts in bringing the event to life.

The event was attended by NOCZ Secretary General, Boniface Kambikambi and the Committee’s Board Member, Dickson Jere, National Paralympic Committee of Zambia (NPCZ) Representative Richard Lubanza, IOC Believe in Sport Ambassador Nchimunya Mweetwa, OYDC Zambia Sports Development Centre CEO Fredrick Chitangala, Centre for Persons with Disabilities General Secretary Ezra Mwansa, Athlete Rhoda Njobvu OLY and Environmental Activist Enock Mwewa.

Official opening of the Inclusive Sports Festival event in Lusaka,  Bank of Zambia Complex
During the official opening of the Inclusive Sports Festival event in Lusaka, Bank of Zambia Complex

The 2023 Inclusive Sports Festival showcased the power of sports to unite diverse communities and promote inclusivity. It also underscored the importance of environmental sustainability. The commitment of all partners involved reflects the festival's core values of inclusivity, unity, and sustainability, leaving a lasting impact on Zambian society. NOCZ continues to champion unity in diversity, inclusivity, and environmental sustainability, making a positive difference in the lives of young athletes and the community as a whole.



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