Girls scoring global goals – tackling gender inequality from the football pitch

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Our partner, Moving the Goalposts (MTG), has been making waves in the international football community. Recently winning second place in the 2017 FIFA Diversity Award, they have shown just how much one group of girls with a football can achieve.

With first place going to Soccer Without Borders, this accolade recognises the incredible work of groups who inspire unity, solidarity and equality through football. It will join Moving the Goalpost’s ever-growing trophy cabinet, sitting alongside the 2016 Laureus Sport for Good Award and the team’s inspiring September victory in New York – the Global Goals World Cup.

MTG works with over 9,000 members who not only play football, but also become leaders in bringing the challenges faced by girls in rural Kenya into public view. This innovative way of tackling gender inequality transforms the football pitch into a platform where girls can become visible and make their voices heard.

We caught up with MTG founder Sarah Forde, to reflect on these remarkable successes and learn more about the MTG journey.

UP: Congratulations on your most recent success with the FIFA award! What does that mean for MTG?

SF: Thank you. It’s a massive honour for MTG to be recognised by such an influential organisation as FIFA.

Football has proven to be a very powerful tool in Kilifi, bringing girls out into the public mainstream and opening up new opportunities for them. For FIFA to recognise this in our out-of-the way location is so motivating – we want to just keep doing what we do, to keep innovating and keep moving.

It’s great that MTG has had such widespread recognition over the last few years. How did it all begin?  

It all started back in 1999. At the time I was working in radio and also coaching football in the UK. On a visit to see a university friend in Kenya, I went to Kilifi and was really struck by the challenges girls were facing there.

Kilifi is one of the poorest counties in Kenya, and families who live there are often unable to afford the school fees for secondary school and dropout rates are high, particularly for girls. Limited economic opportunities for women mean teen pregnancies and early marriages are very common between the ages of 14-16, which further restricts access to education.

It was a bit of a hare-brained idea, but we thought: ‘what if we got girls together to play football in public places and show people that girls can do the same things as boys?’ We hoped that would address some of the issues, or at least start people talking about them.

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How has MTG impacted the lives of the young women that you work with?

The project has been really successful in keeping girls in school and supporting them through education. The girls that actively volunteer with MTG also receive some help towards school fees.

Beyond that, we’re supporting young women to take on leadership roles that they never had before in such a male-dominated society. The girls take the lead, organising their own events and fixtures and refereeing matches. We also run peer education programmes on reproductive health, women’s rights and economic empowerment.

A teacher in Kilifi once said to me: “I can tell an MTG girl just by the way she walks. She walks with her head held high and with purpose”, and that has really stuck with me.

Why do you think football has been so powerful in creating that change?

The beauty of football is that it’s extremely cheap. You can make your own ball and play almost anywhere. To be included in this global team sport gives real power to girls who experience exclusion in so many other parts of their lives.

Where do you see the work of MTG heading in the future?

It’s not enough for us to just help girls become more confident. We also want to do more a lot more work around confronting the structures that keep women repressed.

We want to challenge governments and global institutions, enabling women to be included in decision-making processes. We’ve worked very hard on developing leadership skills and opportunities for girls, and it would be great to see MTG girls going on to enter political positions and institutions in the future.

Women still face so many other barriers, like sexual violence or harassment that can’t be tackled in isolation. We want to be a strong voice on these issues at a global scale. It takes a lot of work from a lot of people to do this, but MTG’s recognition in the FIFA Diversity Award is definitely a step in the right direction.


United Purpose works in partnership with Moving the Goalposts. The project has been funded since 2011, and UP has provided support in areas such as inclusion and Monitoring & Evaluation. Find out more about MTG's fantastic work and keep up with their continued successes on their website, Facebook and Twitter.