Norway´s Minister of Culture Linda Cathrine Hofstad Helleland would like to see more girls playing sports and has made this an important part of her agenda in Rio during the Olympic Games.
On August 4, 2016, the Minister visited the Cinderella project, part of the activities at the Norwegian NGO Karanba in São Gonçalo, Rio de Janeiro. The Karanba project was founded in 2006 by former football player Tommy Nilsen.
«I am impressed with what Tommy has done here. It was an inspiring experience to see how happy these girls are and to see that Karanba is contributing to changing the lives of children who have had a difficult start», Mrs. Hofstad Helleland said.
At the Karanba base in Vista Alegre, the Norwegian minister had lunch with the children, and appreciated the Brazilian churrasco that was served. She also played football with the girls and heard their stories.
The Cinderella project was created to include more girls in the activities. Offering the same activities to both boys and girls is a priority to the NGO. This is also a priority to the minister.
«Karanba is a great example on how to include girls and it is fantastic to see how they are blooming here», she said.
Karanba currently has about 1000 children involved in different activities, and according to founder Tommy Nilsen, the human being is more important than the football player to him. This is why he also has teachers, a social worker and a psychologist on his staff.
«Football has always been an important part of my life, and we want to offer opportunities and contribute to changing the lives of these children. We are very proud of our girls», Tommy Nilsen said.
High level meetings
The Minister also met with Brazil´s Minister of Sports, Leonardo Picciani, before representing the Norwegian Government at the Opening Ceremony on August 5.
On August 6, she hosted a meeting with other Minister of Sports, from Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland and Great Britain, as part of a challenge given to her by the president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach.
«Mr. Bach has given me a task to map how we can increase the participation of girls in sport and of women in leading positions in sports. Karanba is a fantastic example, and I have asked my colleagues for more good examples», she says.
Next year, the Norwegian Minister will present the suggestions during an international conference in Peru.
On August 7, she had lunch with key representatives from Norwegian businesses in Rio de Janeiro. Corporate social responsibility is something the Minister would like to discuss with them.
«We all have a responsibility and I would definitely encourage them to support local CSR projects like Karanba and others, despite the current economic down cycle we are going through. I hope they see that it is possible to be supportive in many ways. In Karanba, several companies are involved as board members of the NGO. In times like this, we have to take the long term view.»
A great experience
She will also see Norwegian athletes in action, and as she used to play handball when she was younger, she is particularly excited about the chance to follow the Norwegian female handball team in the initial phase of the games this next week.
«I am looking very much forward to accompanying the competitions. I have only been here a few hours but the impression is that Rio is a fantastic city, the atmosphere, the people. It is going to be a great experience», Mrs. Hofstad Helleland says.
The Minister of Culture is not the only high level visit from Norway during the Olympic Games. HRH Crown Prince Haakon is returning, for the second time in less than a year, to accompany the 62 Norwegian athletes participating.
By Runa Hestmann, NBCC journalist