Play Like a Girl
For girls in Kibera, a crowded slum in Nairobi, soccer is more than a game. It is a path to a better life.
Abdul Kassim, who was raised by aunts, his mother and grandmother in Kibera (he had an absentee father), saw that girls in the slums were getting pregnant and being taken advantage of by boys and men in the village, so he started a soccer team for girls called Girls Soccer in Kibera (GSK).
It was 2002, and the program became a success, with the girls eventually becoming so good they beat the boys (who cried about their loss) and the young women began to see they had potential to do more with their lives. Abdul realized the girls needed more than soccer. They needed education.
By 2006, Abdul had created the Kibera Girls Soccer Academy (KSGA)—letters repeated throughout the six-disc audio book. Abdul managed to recruit two volunteer teachers for the first class of 11 girls.
Written by Ellie Roscher, a teacher at a St. Paul, Minnesota high school who spent two summers reporting and researching KGSA in Kenya, Play Like A Girl is very much the story of Abdul and the school, but it also the story of the girls—Dalifa, Asha, Clarisa and others. Their journeys in and out of the school are interspersed with Abdul’s challenges in getting the facility going, in getting and maintaining funding, and in getting the girls to go and to stay in the school, or as the author puts it: “? to run and kick, to be in their bodies as powerful athletes, to be free.”
Play Like A Girl tells of the hardships of the slum life. Narrator Katherine Fenton’s mesmerizing and serious but soothing voice paints a picture of the community, illustrating how girls are often married off as soon as they start menstruating or they have sex in exchange for menstrual pads (the book goes into detail about issues revolving around menstruation) and many girls end up pregnant and without a husband and/or infected with HIV.
Abdul found a way to get menstrual products donated to the school and he kept pushing for girls to attend, to learn, and to advance to the next level of education in Kenya. The story is not without setbacks and heartache. Not all of the girls stay in school. Not all of the girls are able to score high enough on the exam to do post-secondary schooling. But the story shows that change can happen with perseverance and dedication.
Today, KGSA has 20 full-time staff for more than 130 students annually, offering a free secondary school education. Plans are underway for a new dormitory. Young women are encouraged to dream big, to feel empowered and to achieve success.
Ann Oldenburg ©2018 Parents’ Choice
Ann Oldenburg, lecturer and interim director of the journalism program at Georgetown University, writes about television, food, workplace issues and other pop culture topics. A University of Florida Gator with a degree in journalism, she began her career at The Washington Post and spent more than two decades with USA TODAY. She and her husband have three sons and live in McLean, Virginia.