Female football coach and activist challenging the status quo

Resultat - 2017-06-20
Salome Muthui is no ordinary woman. She is a trained football coach with over 7 years’ experience in a male-dominated field. She uses a unique blend of football and rights training to empower her women's team.
Salome Muthui during the interview at her home in Visoi ward, Nakuru County
Salome Muthui during the interview at her home in Visoi ward, Nakuru County.

Salome has immense experience in training men teams as well and has won a number of trophies and accolades for her work. However, her journey has not been a bed of roses.

Football remains the most popular sport in Africa, but despite its popularity, women's engagement in football is still limited due to cultural factors, lack of funding and the patriarchal nature of the sport that has proved a deterrent to women's involvement.

Although the situation is improving in Africa, girls are too often discouraged from playing football. The reality at the grassroots, especially in rural areas, is that there are virtually no women's football teams, let alone a woman football coach. Salome says women footballers in rural areas grapple with an uncomfortable sense of being viewed as unladylike, uncultured, inappropriate and unable to reconcile sports with motherhood and other familial roles.

Salome trains Shalom Queens, a team of eighteen ladies, the majority of them being single mothers. The team from Umoja Village in Rongai, Nakuru County has been in existence since 2011. Salome brought these ladies together with the purpose of enhancing their football skills as well as empowering them on their rights. She says that football has kept the young women engaged and has been effective in reducing cases of substance abuse and other social problems. Shalom Queens has played many local tournaments and have won important trophies like the Rongai constituency championship.

Salome Muthui, showcases her juggling skills at her compound in Visoi, Nakuru County
Salome Muthui, showcases her juggling skills at her compound in Visoi, Nakuru County.

 

Salome and her football team have been part of Kikwetu Unyasini project, implemented by Playmakers Theatre Youth Group through the support of the Wajibu Wetu Programme. Kikwetu Unyasini seeks to enhance gender equality and public participation in democracy in Rongai constituency, Nakuru County.

 

Through the project, Salome has undergone several trainings on public participation, lobbying and advocacy and gender equality. After such trainings, Salome subsequently passes the knowledge to her team, supporting the young women to claim their rights and enhance their participation in local decision-making processes. This has contributed to the team increasing members and remaining strong.

 

A case in point, Salome has been able to successfully mobilize her team, other sports coaches and the community to lobby for fund allocations for sports activities at the last public participation process on budget prioritization and allocation for Visoi ward. After the budget review process, 28 sports teams from the ward were equipped with kits, balls and other sporting equipment worth Kes. 500,000, a great contribution to local sports teams but equally a noteworthy statement of the effectiveness of Salome’s advocacy efforts.

 

“Kikwetu Unyasini has helped us to understand our rights no access to information and participation and in turn, we have been able to lobby for them from our leaders,” attests Salome.

 

Studies have shown that team sports such as football can be particularly good for developing social skills such as communication, conflict management and working effectively with others toward a common goal. Sports also provides a platform for networking and also exposes players to greater opportunities.

 

“Women should not be afraid of taking up roles and sporting activities that have always been the reserve of men, women too can play football,” advises Salome.

 

For Salome however, the benefits of the women-only football team go beyond sporting value. She feels it provides a strategic space for women to deliberate on issues affecting them, a sisterhood support system and an opportunity to empower the young women with information specifically tailored for them.

 

Being a football coach hasn’t been easy, Salome has experienced a number of challenges such as lack of resource to sustain the team, lack of support from the county leaders and the families.

 

As more girls and women become interested and achieve success in football, the community’s attitude is becoming more tolerant towards the idea of women's engagement in football. Salome however, notes that despite the progress, more still needs to be done and calls for support for women's football teams, especially from the County Governments.

 

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