Empowering African Girls Through Soccer

01/28/14

The sun has just gone down as Josie Graybeal and her Venture Team arrive at the Children of the Nations ministry center in Sierra Leone. A little ways off, in the dusk, you can just make out a group of the white jerseys—Seattle Pacific University uniforms—that Josie brought last year. In the center, beaming and proud, are twenty-six African girls. Flanked by the boys' team, they perform a short "soccer" dance, jumping and slapping their feet like calisthenics. Then they break out into song, welcoming their inspiration back. 



Josie shares a devotional with girls and boys from the soccer camp. The girls say they see Josie both as a great soccer player and a role model. 

 
Just one year before, a much smaller group of girls giggled when Josie asked them to play soccer—or football as they call it in Sierra Leone—at the camp she came to run. They had a small team, but little coaching. No one took them very seriously, least of all themselves. "In Sierra Leone, the women do not play football how the men play," explains Christiana, one of the team's most dedicated players. "It is not well known for women to play. But when Josie came, many people got interested." 


Christiana (above) says that Josie's first soccer camp encouraged her and other girls to take the sport more seriously.
 
Watching Josie—a small blond girl who more than held her own playing alongside the men—girls who would normally sit on the sidelines and chat began kicking the ball around. "Josie is an example to all the girls who want to play football," says Massah, who now plays on the girls' team. "We admire her a lot." 


                                    Massah (right) runs for the ball during a camp tournament.
 
Tearing across the field after the ball, Christiana reveals a completely different side from the soft-spoken girl she is off the field. "Some people say that a woman can't do what a man can do," she says. "Me, I believe she can."
 
In a culture where girls' education is often not valued, and most young women end up pregnant and drop out of school before they can ever dream of a career, Christiana's words could not be more powerful. Now in her final year of high school, Christiana has made it to a level of education few girls in Sierra Leone ever achieve. Part of her success, she says, has been because of soccer. 
 
"Football helps me to have determination," she explains. "If I determine to score a goal today, I will fight hard to score a goal. And if I determine to read two topics for class, I will read two topics." 


                                      Christiana, showing her determination on the soccer field.
 
You can empower a young woman to finish school. Support a girl's education—sponsor a child in Africa today