April 24, 2012
Khadra Kalil Abdi, chair of the Somaliland Culture and Sports Association (SOCSA), says Somalis' views on women who participate in sports have been changing.
Through the organisation she founded in 2000, Abdi promotes women's education and health by engaging young girls and the public in sports and programmes highlighting Somali folklore. In addition, SOCSA helps young women develop computer, leadership and basic media skills.
Abdi, who played basketball for Somalia's Woqooyi Galbeed region in her youth, sat with Sabahi to talk about the cultural impediments Somali women still face and how her organisation promotes change.
Sabahi: Tell us about your background in sports.
Khadra Kalil Abdi: I began participating in sports in 1979 when I was very young. At the time, sports used to be played at the school level, then proceeding to district and regional levels.
I began playing sports in this venue [now SOCSA], when it was the Shacab Girls school … I used to play basketball and table tennis.
Sabahi: Tell us about SOCSA.
Abdi: It is a youth organisation that focuses on teaching girls about sports and folklore. We also work to educate girls and raise awareness [on various issues], such as against HIV/AIDS. We educate the community against female genital mutilation (FGM), as well as early marriage and divorce, which have recently become increasingly common among young people.
The focus of the centre continues to be providing sporting venues to girls since they do not have many places they can play in. Boys have the opportunity to play ball anywhere, including on the side of roads. However, girls are either home watching movies, or attempting to change their appearance with [bleaching] creams.
One of the biggest reasons I started SOCSA is to prevent girls from altering their bodies and to introduce them to activities that are good for their bodies and health. Aside from that, we want to provide education.
Sabahi: Who helps you with funding?
Abdi: The sports and cultural training we provide receives no financial support from international organisations or the United Nations. However, these organisations support other programmes that we offer to the girls, such as leadership training. For example, the UN International Children's Emergency Fund and Save the Children built this centre.
Sabahi: What health benefits do girls gain from playing sports?
Abdi: It can prevent certain diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, [higher risks of which have been associated with] being overweight. For women, physical activity leads to an easier childbirth.
Sabahi: What are Somalis' attitudes towards women playing sports?
Abdi: It is still culturally difficult for girls to play sports in public, but the trend is changing [because] people are learning. There are parents who bring us their daughters to teach them to play ball.
Initially, however, we faced a lot of challenges; we were verbally harassed, and had to file daily police complaints. But now, the boys who used harass girls for playing sports seem to understand it is a girl's right.
Sabahi: How many girls come through your centre?
Abdi: Approximately 100 to 110 girls come through the centre each year for basketball training, most of them leave after they complete some training. The majority attend the folklore programme, which attracts about 300 kids annually.
Sabahi: How are students selected to attend programmes at the centre?
Abdi: We do not recruit our students from any specific school. [The programme] is open to all girls who are interested in learning about sports and other skills. If we were to choose our students [only] from schools, we would limit accessibility to the centre … the girls in our programmes comprise students and those who stay home.
Sabahi: What do you hope to achieve with your awareness campaigns?
Abdi: Our aim is to educate the public about HIV/AIDS and how it can be contracted. We teach them how it can be prevented.
When girls reach puberty, they begin preparing for marriage, and that leads them to drop out of school. We want girls to continue their studies, as it is they only way to prevent some of the problems that arise from marrying early. Ultimately, [keeping girls in school] will help them better support their families.
Sabahi: What are some of the problems associated with FGM?
Abdi: In the past, [it was customary] to circumcise several girls at once using one blade. Since then, we have learnt the kind of health hazards this practice poses.
FGM is the cause of continuous health problems for girls, from the day they are circumcised to the day they die. If you go to a women's hospital, you will see that most of the women are being treated for health problems associated with FGM.
FGM causes fistula during delivery and excessive bleeding. We hear of many women who died because of excessive bleeding or other FGM-related complications during labour or delivery.
Sabahi: How will educating girls benefit the community?
Abdi: Educated women can help develop the country. They will be able to seek employment and work. They will also be able to become trainers of trainees.
Police arrested hundreds of suspected al-Shabaab fighters in Mogadishu's Hodan and Howlwadag dist...
A three-day conference on education opened in Mogadishu Tuesday (June 18th), bringing together go...
Somali government forces backed by African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Ethiopian troops...
Secretary of Interior and Co-ordination of National Government Joseph Ole Lenku Monday (June 17th...
A fire in Garissa's main market destroyed more than 100 stalls Monday night (June 17th)....
Djiboutian Secretary of State for National Solidarity Zahra Youssouf Kayad signed two project agr...
Kenya's parliamentary budget committee has rejected a proposal to purchase a new office for forme...
Wildfires broke out in Djibouti's Balbala town Sunday (June 16th), destroying 11 homes and damagi...
Photographs al-Shabaab posted Sunday (June 16th) on Twitter of two Kenyan police officers abducte...
Kenyan police killed terrorism suspect Kassim Omolo Otieno in Mombasa during a dawn raid on his h...