Woman Defying Odds With Muslim Girls Football Team


It is in Northern Kenyan city of Marsabit, close to the region known as the horn of Africa that Fatuma Abdulkadir Adan has set up an all-girl football team to tackle child marriage and female genital mutilation, FGM.

A lawyer by profession, Fatuma, describes her ordeal, challenges and motivation in a BBC programme.

“It would have been an easier option to stay in Nairobi, practise law and earn some good money, drive a cool Mercedes-Benz. But I just wanted to come back home,” she says.

Her first attempt at a female tournament in 2008, in a religious region like Marsabit did not deter her from carry on; even when a good number of the girls were afterwards kidnapped and forced into child marriage.

“I was physically stoned and literally kicked out of the pitch.”

Girls in the Hodi football tournament.

Fatuma began her journey to fighting the cultural practice of child marriage and FGM – illegal practices in Kenya, coupled with anger and hatred between tribes.

She wanted to use football to unite them all and curb the menace facing the girl child.

In 2003, she founded the Horn of Africa Development known as Hodi.

With Hodi, she has been able to unite young men from different tribes, cause a cultural shift and most importantly, an opportunity for the girls to play football.

“It was an AK-47 in exchange for a place on the football team,” she says.

She launched a programmed “Breaking the Silence” that gives voices to women to stand up for themselves against child marriage and FGM which has helped 1, 645 girls from 152 villages in the last 10 years.

“Before it was a cool thing for a 13 or 12-year-old girl to be married,” Fatuma explains.

“Today, if you marry off a 13-year old, the girls in the class will complain, as will the boys.”

Fatuma has had to work hard against the culture and traditions; work with the locals and religious leaders.

After meeting with Imams on an acceptable football strip modest enough for the muslim girls to appear in, she is able to run a girls team in an Islamic school known as a madrassa.

Fatuma’s approach is highlighted with so much impact in the lives of the girls and young men.

A 14-year-old testimony of the Hodi initiative, Fatuma Gufu, reveals: “I was so shy at first,” she says, “but after some time football changed me. For several years parents did not support girls playing football but in the future, when I’m a mother, I want to support girls playing football.”

14-year-old Fatuma Gufu has had her confidence boosted by Hodi

Ms Gufu’s headteacher admits an obvious improvement in her performance at school and outside of it, all thanks to football.

Madam Kame Koto: “Since she started participating in football league, Fatuma has opened up in terms of her performance and leadership skills.”

“All of this is possible because of the football,” Fatuma insists.

“Girls are able to push and also score goals in class and physically on the football pitch.”

Fatuma Abdulkadir Adan left a lucrative law career in Nairobi for a more defining challenge in little known Marsabit.


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Macaulay Maduwuba is the Chief Content at Kanu Sports TV

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