According to estimates from civil society groups and data from the United Nations, western Kenya has one of the highest proportions of violence against women and girls, with 45% of women having experienced violence since the age of 15 and more than a quarter reporting that they have suffered violence within the last year.
Football can be a useful tool in changing attitudes towards gender violence among young people in predominantly male-dominated societies, a British Council programme has found. More than 150 delegates from the UK and Kenya are currently meeting in Nairobi to discuss findings from the Addressing Violence Against Women and Girls Through Football programme (VAWG).
Building on the British Council and Premier League’s highly successful Premier Skills initiative and funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), the VAWG programme worked with young people in Mount Elgon and Kisumu to try and address behaviours and attitudes that give rise to high levels of violence against women and girls.
Premier Skills has been running in those areas for the past three years and has trained and supported 100 local community coaches, using football as a tool to tackle issues of violence against females in the region.
The British Council Manager in charge of the VAWG programme, Ms Alice Wekesa said: “The approach of using football to address gender issues worked very well as the programme was able to consistently engage young people, especially men and boys, over a 17-week period using a tailored curriculum. Over 85% of the male participants who took part in the programme said they had learnt a lot, and in our evaluation, we noted a notable shift in the reduction of gender inequitable attitudes amongst both boys and girls who took part in the programme.”
“In a region with some of the highest rates of gender-based violence in the country, there has been a significant shift in attitudes amongst men who previously held the view that a woman ‘was inviting’ rape or sexual assault by the way she dressed or behaved. At the start of the programme, 59% of male participants thought girls were to blame for rape and this had reduced significantly to 17% by the end of the football and VAWG curriculum sessions. Through community engagement using quarterly football events, we began to address negative gender norms in the wider society, through facilitating discussions with adults.”
Tony Reilly, British Council Director in Kenya said: “We are grateful to all our partners, and particularly the Premier League, and the Department of International Development in the UK that funded this programme and the County governments of Bungoma and Kisumu. We are grateful that we have managed to use the popularity of the Premier League and the global appeal of football to sensitize young people around issues of violence against women and girls. We hope the outcomes from our work with communities in these two regions will lead to an increased interest in using this model more widely in the country and around the world.”
Kate Dowler, Head of International Relations, Premier League added: “The training and development of Premier Skills coaches in the region over the past three years, has enabled the British Council and Premier League to reach not only those 100 individuals who have taken part in sessions, but also their wider social network. Paired with the extremely successful education work delivered through the VAWG programme, this reach has led to a significant change in gender attitudes in the region which will bring greater community cohesion in the future.”
Premier Skills is a partnership between the Premier League and the British Council which uses football as a tool to develop a brighter future for young people around the world. The Premier League is involved in a wide range of community projects both in the UK and overseas.