The British Council and Premier League, together with UK and Kenyan partners, are delivering an innovative pilot programme using football to tackle issues of gender-based violence in Kenya. Building on the highly successful Premier Skills initiative and funded by the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) , Addressing Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Through Football is working with young people in Mount Elgon and Kisumu to address the behaviours and attitudes that give rise to high levels of violence against women and girls.  

The programme delivers inclusive football and education activities to girls and boys aged 10–20 and conducts advocacy and capacity building work with wider community members and service providers in Mount Elgon and Kisumu regions of Kenya. The programme was initiated against the backdrop of the high rates of violence experienced by women and girls in western Kenya.

According to the 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS), 45% of women in Kenya have experience physical violence since the age of 15; with women in Nyanza and western regions (including Mount Elgon and Kisumu) recording higher rates at 57 per cent and 53 per cent respectively. Prevailing cultural and social norms of male dominance reinforce violence against women and girls and play a key role in entrenching gender inequality and impunity by perpetrators. 

Football Appeal

The global appeal of football amongst men and boys makes it an effective engagement strategy for working with men and boys on preventing violence against women and girls in a way that stand alone gender education programmes may not be able to. Through the regular football and education sessions, the programme has engaged with over 4,200 young people between the ages of 10 -20.

 In a context where football is largely viewed as a man’s game, the programme succeeded in engaging with 1,878 young women and girls – including 80 young mothers - who completed the football and education sessions.  The delivery model was adapted for a variety of groups including teenage mothers and young men not attending school. A football league has been established for the young men not attending school where teams earn points by attending VAWG education sessions and goals scored in football competitions.

Expert Premier Skills Coaches from Premier League clubs such as West Bromwich Albion, Aston Villa and Newcastle, have led the capacity building of 100 Kenyan coaches to lead fun, inclusive and value-based football sessions. The programme developed contextualised education curriculum that address questions of gender and violence against women and girls. A total of 19 coach educators have been equipped with skills to support other adults and coaches working with young people in the two target regions. 

Positive stories

The programme has led to substantial changes in the attitudes of the young people participating in the regular football and education sessions. By the end of the curriculum sessions there were positive shifts towards more gender equitable attitudes in both Mount Elgon and Kisumu. For instance, at the start of the sessions with the first cohort of participants; 71 per cent and 33 per cent of male participants in Mount Elgon and Kisumu agreed that there were times when a woman deserved to be beaten. By the end of the curriculum and football sessions the percentage of male participants that agreed that there were times when a woman deserved to be beaten reduced to 24 per cent and 21 per cent for Mount Elgon and Kisumu respectively. 

Similar trends were observed with the older out of school youths. In general the proportion of gender equitable attitudes expressed by the groups of out of school young men and women increased from a baseline of 37 per cent of male youth and 53 per cent for the female youth to 65per cent for male and 83 per cent for the female youth. By the end of the 14 week sessions there was also a notable increase in the proportion of young men that ‘strongly agreed’ with the statement that ‘If a boy or a man was hurting a girl I knew, I would try and stop him’ from a baseline of 39 per cent to 87 per cent; an indicator of improved bystander attitudes towards VAWG.