Meet the girls using football to challenge gender stereotypes

Dina, 18, plays football with her friends in South Sudan.

 

A group of girls at one of World Vision’s Child Friendly Spaces in South Sudan are challenging gender stereotypes … by playing football.

Many girls in South Sudan are flung quickly into adulthood. The country has one of the lowest enrolment rates of girls in secondary school – and only 8% are able to finish their education.

Over half of all girls in the country will be married before the age of 18.

But this football team wants to show their community - and themselves – that girls can be powerful.

One team member, 18-year-old Dina, said she felt playing football had made her “stronger”.

“Football makes me the happiest. When I play, I don’t think about anything else, I just concentrate. When I go to school, I can concentrate better too,” she said.

Dina’s mother Magline was just 13 years old when she was forced into marriage. She is determined that her daughters will not suffer that same fate.

Magline was married was she was just 13 years old.

“It wasn’t my intention to get married. I wasn’t there willingly. I didn’t want to get married, but I had no choice.

“I decided my children must go to school. I don’t want them to be like me. I’m blind – meaning I cannot read or write. I want my children to have a different life than the one I have lived."

- Magline, Dina's mother

Margaret is a midfielder who plays football with her friends.

Playing football has helped the girls’ confidence grow and - despite standing in the face of continued gender discrimination - they believe that change is possible.

“Boys and girls are able to do the same thing. Girls can play well, sometimes even better than boys,” Margaret, a midfielder, told me.

“I want to be as good as the boys,” Dina said. “No, I want to be better than them”.

Football is just one of the activities organised by staff at World Vision’s Child Friendly Spaces, a spot where thousands of children are provided a safe place to play and express themselves every day.

By Mark Nonkes