The Girls Club “Chess for protection” was launched by FIDE and UNHCR as part of the Chess for Refugees programme in the Northwestern region of Kenia. Its goal is to help refugees learn the game of chess, acquire new important life skills, socialize, and release stress through it.
Spearheaded by Anastasia Sorokina, Chair of the FIDE WOM Commisssion, the project was launched in August 2021. First classes were held in Angelina Jolie Primary School in Kakuma with an attendance of 40 students. In 2023 it runs in three girls’ boarding schools in the region – Angelina Jolie Primary School, Morneau Shepell Secondary School and Bhar-El-Naam Primary School – with 250 refugee schoolgirls attending chess classes twice a week.
The program’s second edition is running from March 2023 till the end of July. Female students attend online lessons by WGM Anastasiya Karlovich (UKR) and IM Salome Melia (GEO). They also study and play chess with a local tutor. Modern technologies are used to make lessons entertaining – girls are playing chess against their co-students and tutors, solving puzzles, playing against robots, watching short videos from “Chesskid”, and even doing simple workouts. During the lessons, the social benefits of chess are also discussed. Teachers tell girls inspirational stories and interesting facts about chess. The lessons are based on a Curriculum written by Anastasiya Karlovich, Shohreh Bayat and Martina Skogvall to teach chess in refugee camps.
During the months of chess lessons, refugee girls learn the basic rules of chess and continue to practice after the end of the online course. More than that, refugee camp students participate in various competitions, including the schools’ chess tournament in Kakuma, Kenya. Athieng Chol, who attended chess classes during the first year of the project, won the tournament with a perfect score of 5 points in 5 rounds. Ajaa Nyasisi, Nyandeng Deng, Akit Garang and Nyibol Jok finished in the top 10 among 40 participants.
In July 2023, the Girls Club students will also participate in the upcoming Queens’ Online Chess Festival, a series of continental women’s online blitz tournaments organized by the FIDE Commission for Women’s Chess.
Registration for the event is still running here: