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Football as a Symbol of Rebellion

In Marsabit county, northern Kenya, Horn of Africa Development Initiative (HODI) work to promote peaceful conflict resolution in areas of persistent tribal warfare.

Using football to engage soldiers and young people from around the region, HODI is able to open dialogues on how tribal clashes have impacted lives.

But HODI’s work doesn’t stop there.


Through football they also work to empower women and girls to have a more active voice in communities as well as fighting the silence on Female Genital Mutilation.

With mixed gender teams, boys learn about issues affecting girls and, instead of seeing FGM as a ‘girl problem,’ they fight it together.

The ball has become a symbol of women’s rebellion and sign of empowerment as Muslim women continue to fight for their rights in an area where many are forbidden from playing football.

While the country’s armed forces fight a war against the radical group al-Shabab, the intervention of women in the communities – although resisted by many sectors – helps to remove military pressure in tribal communities and promote peace.


HODI also runs the ‘Shoot To Score, Not To Kill’ programme which is designed to use football as a way to promote peace among members of different ethnicities in the region. 

The program tries to ‘disarming the mind’ in order to get the participants to accept those who are different and promotes peaceful acts on the football field.

The programme does this by utilising games with three 'halves' which, as well as football, encourage players to converse when not on the pitch playing. 

Since 2008, this program has been helping to stop children from falling into ethnic rivalry and violence.

Shoot to Score, Not to Kill places an emphasis on empowering soldiers and young people, as well as resolving conflict peacefully between tribes at war.


HODI encourage those who participate to stay within the eco-system of the organisation which sees those who have played as young girls moving on and graduating to become the coaches of future generations. 

The organization also host a ‘Kenya-Ethiopia Cross Border Football for Peace’ event which brings young people, including warriors from conflicting tribes, to play football.

At these conferences, there are two parts. The first sets out to talk about conflicts, and peace resolution action plans while the second is a football tournament.  

Photos: Sebastian Gil Miranda | @sebagilmiranda

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