Women’s football (soccer) has had a foothold in Tanzania since the late 1990s. The country even has a national women’s team, called the Twiga Stars, and a national under-20 team, the Tanzanites. Despite efforts over the past two decades to get more of the female population on the field, progress has been slow.
What’s holding some players back? Fathers who tell daughters it’s a man’s sport. Religious beliefs that forbid women to wear shorts or to play in front of male spectators. Husbands who don’t allow wives to continue playing football once they’re married. Cultural expectations and economic realities often discourage girls from playing the game and developing the skills to compete. And when it comes to organized sports, there’s strength in numbers!
A local NGO called the Karibu Tanzania Organization (KTO) is working to change all that. Together with Tanzania Football Federation (TFF), they’re devising strategic plans and a solid infrastructure to support the sport, all while focusing on the bigger picture. Their goal? To promote gender equality and socio-economic empowerment through the development of girls’ and women’s football. No small feat!
This is the first program of its kind, not only in Tanzania, but in all of East and Central Africa. And CIEE is proud to play a role by partnering with the KTO.
Kicking equality up a notch through the KTO
Empowering Girls Through Sports, a new program in CIEE’s High School Summer Abroad lineup, invites American teens to play a key hands-on role in this initiative. Working side by side with girls in the highlands of Tanzania, our students play team-building games and engage in activities to build skills, self-confidence and optimism about the future.
The power of play
The KTO is a non-profit group committed to furthering human rights, democratic practices and sustainable developments through adult education. So what does all that have to do with women’s football? It turns out, a lot!
Football is more than just a game here; it’s also a vehicle to boost opportunities, equality and respect for women. It’s as much about character development as physical development and a powerful tool to teach important life skills. It’s a healthy pastime, it’s a source of pride and joy.
The potential is huge. In a country of nearly 60 million people, with 45 percent of them under age 15, there’s a lot of girl power waiting to be tapped. Just think of all the talented girls and women around the country who can be trained as football players, coaches and referees, administrators and sports medicine specialists. Think of the possibilities!
Working closely with KTO leaders, students get to witness the NGO’s mission in action. We’re thankful for this partnership and for the privilege of playing alongside local athletes. Here in Iringa, it’s inspirational to see how a game we take for granted can make such a lasting social impact.
Interested in learning more? Check out our Summer Abroad program in Iringa: Empowering Girls through Sports.