In the words of Dorcas Amakobe: “We take girls when they are nine years old and give them a chance to be bold”

Date: Thursday, July 25, 2019

Dorcas Amakobe poses for a photo in her office. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown
Dorcas Amakobe. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

Dorcas Amakobe is the Executive Director of “Moving the Goalposts”, a sport for development organization based Kilifi, a coastal town in Kenya. As part of a UN Women programme funded by the Government of Japan on enhancing women’s active participation in prevention of violent extremism in Kenya, the organization ran a project that provided livelihood skills training and helped build financial independence of young women engaged in its sport programme to build their resilience in Kilifi, Mombasa, Kwale and Tana River County in the coastal region, where youth, including young women, are vulnerable to the spread of violent extremism. Using football as a tool for empowering girls and young women, Moving the Goalposts is helping girls and women stand on their own feet and make their mark, both on and off the field.

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I am a feminist, a mother of two daughters, and I love sports. I had an uncle who worked at the Ministry of Sports, and I would tell him how I wanted to get into sports [when I was young], but he said I would never get into sports unless I got a degree in sports management.

My first job with Moving the Goal Posts was to run a community engagement programme where I got the parents to play football with the girls. When parents had fun on the football pitch, it was easier to kick-start a conversation about the rights of children, both boys and girls. We feel that our investment has created a culture of concern and support within parents and the community.

I love my job as Executive Director of Moving the Goalposts, because of the transformation in the lives of these young girls that I am contributing to. Seventy per cent of our staff are women and 60 per cent are young women below 30 years of age.

We take girls when they are nine years old and give them a chance to be bold, step on a football pitch and try. We incorporate the views of the girls in our work, and all our programmes are led by girls… so that girls can identify who they look up to from their local community. Our matches are refereed by girls; our youngest referee is 13. Our coaches are girls—we have the youngest female coach in the Kenyan Premier League. And when she goes to the matches and she meets fellow coaches, they ask her, ‘who is your coach?’ She says, ‘I am the coach’.

The integration of health, sports, and livelihoods ensures that girls get an opportunity to be leaders, start their businesses, and learn about sexual and reproductive health to become healthy young women. I remember when my own daughter, who participated in our programme, wanted to pursue music, her dad said that there was no way to combine pure science and music. But I told her that I wanted her to do something she liked and if she really wanted to do music, I would ensure that she was able to learn music.

It is not always easy, but that is the approach I use even in the organization when staff comes to me saying that a girl is not focused in one area. I tell them, give them an opportunity to try what is out there, they are young people. Our guidance should be there, but young people should be given a chance to choose their own path.”