|Members of the table tennis team at Dadaab Talent Academy. [Photo: Oscar Pilipili/Standard]|
By Oscar Pilipili
Garissa, Kenya: If you are a girl and live in northern Kenya, you may have to suppress your sports talent. The culture and religion of the communities living here advocate against participation of girls in vigorous activities like sports.
Consequently, massive talent in the region remains untapped. The girls also miss out on scholarships offered by the United Nations Children Education Fund (Unicef) and the Government through talent development programmes.
A recent visit by The Standard to Dadaab Talent Academy (DTA) and Dagahaley High School in Garissa County revealed that the two factors strongly deter participation of girls in sports.
The dominant Somali population in the region, which is largely Muslim, perceives sports as a preserve of men.
In 2012, out of 100 youth who attended DTA training, only three were girls.
And in 2013, DTA trained 98 students (85 boys and 13 girls) of whom 27 were drawn from the refugee camps.
Several talented girls in Dadaab now watch from the periphery as boys freely participate in games.
The good news is that DTA has now found a way round this problem and has come up with a girls-only facilities.
The first is a table tennis hall accessed by girls only.
Nazir Shukri, the captain of the tennis team says: “The society doesn’t give a chance to girls to play but we believe all will be well. Our school has embarked on the creation of enclosed facilities for girls-only sports and fans. We are so happy that now we can also play,” she says.
Zamzam Abdi, a member of the tennis team, reckons: “According to our culture, men are the only ones who are allowed to participate in sports and not women.”
Zamzam says the jerseys used in sports such football and volleyball are a big issue because they expose the body, which is against Islamic and cultural practices.