16 Days of Activism | Girl Power Clubs

By Liz Odera

Meet Liz Odera, Director of Sadili Oval Sports Academy and Malezi Foundation, and a featured blogger for our participation in the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women.

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign that has been used as an organizing strategy by individuals and groups around the world to call for the elimination of all forms of violence against women.


TO LISTEN TO HER AUDIO STORY CLICK HERE: PODCAST

While virtually all girls in Kenya are initially enrolled in primary school, approximately 65% of them drop out before completing Standard 8[1].  This enrollment improves in urban areas, where most girls complete primary school, and a large many of the barriers that girls face in striving to stay in school are either directly or indirectly related to reproductive health, sexual behavior and maturation. 

In addition, girl leaders are often not socialized enough to make the bridge across in order to fit into society, even where they may have the qualifications academically. Historical, social and cultural difference barriers continue to exist, often pushing many to make uncomfortable choices in how they live their lives, jobs that that they can take up, and their everyday activities. 

As Director of Sadili Oval Sports Academy and Malezi Foundation, I initiated the Girl Power Clubs Africa Program– visited twice now by Serena Williams! – which is a leadership program that provides 860 girls in 26 schools in Nairobi with a chance to learn life skills through sports and learn to make decisions that affect their lives and their communities positively. Sadili, meaning “well-being in Kiswahili,” is a social enterprise that uses sport and education to empower children and youth to improve lifestyle and towards earning an income or scholarship for further schooling for a better future. 

In 2010, through Girl Power Clubs Africa, I initiated the Sisterhood World Cup, as an annual football league that provides a platform for girls to express their thoughts on sexual issues, HIV & AIDS and gender protection, culminating in support of over 7 million radio listeners nationwide of THE CODE, a girls' initiated Code of Conduct for people working with girls, and resulted in interest by parliamentarians in discussing the importance of stronger sports policies in sports associations to include gender issues. I continue to seek ways to help women gain financial independence by making entrepreneurship an important part of the learning through the Girl Power Clubs, encouraging them to seek to solve issues within their communities.

I have sought to de-mystify tennis and open up opportunities to over 7,000 children from poor and rich communities alike, making Sadili the melting pot for sports and development in the East and Central African region. I have an extensive youth program in the Kibera slums that includes a soccer training and league (108 teams and 2,700 children), netball league, a weekly basketball and rugby training and a sports after-school education project. Since 2007, I have used these sports to provide a safe space for 2140 girls to express themselves, identify and solves issues in their communities. This has resulted in 87.2% improved attendance in school, 31% improvement in English and Math, as well as 97% completion of school amongst the girl leaders compared to the rest in their community. Many girls have gained confidence in knowing that they can actually have a dream, and work towards it, and we have encouraged them to make completion of high school their primary goal. 

Girls in our program are winning awards in sports (soccer, tennis and basketball), from district to nationals and a number have earned sports scholarships to study in colleges in Kenya and abroad,  those who graduate continue to provide mentorship and support to those within the program, doing exactly what I did when I started, and making my dream come true! Today, Girl Power Clubs Africa is a leadership program run by girls for girls. 

Sports is an excellent medium for communicating with young people because it breaks barriers, provides a platform for social integration and addresses health and better life choices. By establishing more Girl Power Clubs around the country within schools and communities, we can begin to give the girls more hope for the future. Of great concern to me through the years has been the fact that girls in Africa are often left behind in every sphere, including schooling time and sports and lack a platform to address their issues – and I am committed to changing this, by helping girls become leaders in their community, and you can too! 

 


[1] source: Forum for African Women Educationalists

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