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Preventing sexual violence through sport

Copyrights: Sadili

Preventing sexual violence through sport

“When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.”

Communities like those in Kibera slums, Kenya, under all the perceived chaos, run like well-oiled machines. People learn to share, to play their role and “keep to their side” on issues. Women form savings groups, feed and look after each other’s kids, while men watch each other’s property and play the role of protector, like the true “majirani” (neighbours). It works.

Until, it doesn’t. Before, during and immediately after elections, people take sides; every adult has an opinion. Old suspicions come into play, and fractures begin to be seen. Violence is common, with youth groups taking advantage of the uncertainties to rob and rape. Clearly, children are not considered when tension breaks into lawlessness. In all this the children watch or are forced to participate in fear. Studies show that during the electioneering period (1) the prevalence of sexual violence against women and girls is very high and (2) even though older girls are more frequently affected, very young girls and boys are also victims of sexual violence in its various forms.

A year to eight months before the national elections in Kenya, children begin to sense a change of atmosphere, which progresses into high anxiety as the official campaign period begins. One child stopped turning up for training altogether, and on follow up, explained to us:

I don’t have friends anymore. I have been asked not to walk with or talk to my usual teammates because they are our enemies.”

Our project “emPower my Life”, a partnership between the Sadili Oval Sports Academy and the Swiss Academy for Development, has come at a most appropriate time: we have been in operation since January 2017; we use sports and games in equipping girls and boys between six and 15, as well as other stakeholders such as teachers and parents with knowledge, awareness, values, life skills and competencies that help prevent sexual violence.

Let’s hope this will lead to a safer future for these kids. That boys will no longer be bystanders when sexual violence is perpetrated, and that girls’ self-determination becomes recognised through modification of prevailing gender norms. It takes time to grow that grass and make it hardy. We will continue to change the climate, one sports camp at a time, and we are seeking partners to help us extend this project.

If you wish to support this project, contact Liz Odera (Board member, Sadili Oval Sports Academy) at or Marc Probst (Executive Director, Swiss Academy for Development) at


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Wednesday, August 16, 2017 - 10:41

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