EMPOWERMENT

Kwale women use soccer to fight GBV, promote peace

The group of over 7,000, who are 25 years and above, meet for two hours for training and sensitisation on GBV issues

In Summary
  • They are trained under a women and girls empowerment project dubbed Nikumbuke.
  • They use football to share experiences and ways of tackling depression among other domestic problems they face.
Nikumbuke assistant project manager Ann Akoth in Vanga, Kwale county on January 9, 2022.
SPORTS: Nikumbuke assistant project manager Ann Akoth in Vanga, Kwale county on January 9, 2022.
Image: SHABAN OMAR

Over 7,000 women in Kwale are using football to fight gender-based violence and campaign for peace. 

The women, who are 25 years and above, meet for two hours for training and sensitise each other on GBV issues. 

They are trained under a women and girls empowerment project dubbed Nikumbuke.

The project's manager Bendeta Thomas said with the increasing day-to-day challenges affecting women and girls, they came up with various programmes, soccer being one of them, to alleviate the hardships.

She said with football, women share experiences and ways of tackling depression among other domestic problems they face.

Juneta Mlongo, one of the beneficiaries of the Nikumbuke project in Vanga, Kwale on January 9, 2022.
Juneta Mlongo, one of the beneficiaries of the Nikumbuke project in Vanga, Kwale on January 9, 2022.
Image: image: SHABAN OMAR

"We aim to improve and empower women. We want to counter the old African tradition of undermining the female gender," she said.

For many years, women have been looked down upon and denied equal opportunities in education, employment and leadership.

Bendeta said through women soccer, they are fighting teen pregnancies, early marriages and educating women on their rights and where to seek legal protection.

"Majority of the women are illiterate and have no clue what domestic and sexual violence are. This is because during their childhood they were never taken to school, some were married off early," she said.

Bendeta said by sharing life experiences the women learn and understand that some issues need to be reported or how to handle them.

The initiative also helps the women understand the importance of education and hence take their girls to school and also protect them from sexual violence.

The women soccer doesn't include school girls below 25 years with all members required to have a national identity cards for enrolment.

Initiative however provides sponsorship to the younger girls with more than 315 schoolgirls being sponsored.

The project's assistant director Ann Akoth said with soccer, many women open up and reduce the burden of mental health issues.

She said many domestic violence cases in the region are a result of couples holding resentments whose end becomes catastrophic.

"There are cases of women killing children, husbands or get killed. This is because people are not able to share their problems for solution," she said.

Nikumbuke women footballers in Vanga on January 9, 2022.
Nikumbuke women footballers in Vanga on January 9, 2022.
Image: image: SHABAN OMAR

Akoth said the project also seeks to enhance good menstrual hygiene and the general health of women.

She said with sports, women can naturally fight diseases and health complications accompanied by old age.

"When they play together, they keep diseases like high blood pressure, ulcers among others at bay that can simply be cured through physical exercises," she said.

She said men who initially opposed the project are now forcing their wives to do sports after seeing the benefits.

The Nikumbuke project is a Kenyan NGO started in 2012.

It is supported by a Swedish nonprofit, From One to Another, and US-based Health by Motorbike.

According to Akoth, the project provides basic literacy and health promotion services for women and school fee assistance for their daughters.

In Kwale it is mainly concentrated in Lunga-Lunga subcounty to improve healthcare services, education, water supply, fight non-communicable diseases among others.

A beneficiary Juneta Mlongo, 36, said the project helped her overcome domestic challenges.

Mlongo said since joining the initiative, she has managed to beat health issues through sports.

The mother of four children said her children's education is sponsored and she is currently physically fit because of playing soccer.

Lucy Muthoni, 29, said majority of women who once suffered from arthritis are now cured through exercise.

Muthoni said the project has given many people the opportunity to nurture their forgotten talents which they could not showcase due to fear.

She said through football, they are able to promote peace not only at home but to the entire Kwale society.

 

 

-Edited by SKanyara

Nikumbuke women football team warm up after a match in Vanga on January 9, 2022.
FOOTBALL: Nikumbuke women football team warm up after a match in Vanga on January 9, 2022.
Image: SHABAN OMAR