Esse Mbeyu Akida shares how her passion for football motivated her to join Moving the Goalposts - our partner organisation, based in Kenya, which uses football as a tool to change the lives of disadvantaged girls and young women - and how she has carved out a successful career for herself.
I was drawn to the football pitch when I was eight years old. I was inspired by my brothers, who would allow me to go and watch them play football. But watching them play was agony because I was only allowed to play with the ball when they were done playing! Girls in my community were not allowed to play football or even stay out of the house for long hours. But my hope was awakened when I heard about Moving the Goalposts (MTG), an organisation that empowers girls and young women in Kilifi.
I was among the first girls that joined MTG in 2002. I never missed football training! My mother was told that I was a good player and since coming to watch me play one day, she has never left my side. She is my number one fan. I was a very shy girl, but drew attention when I played football. I would feel confident when walking out onto the pitch and I believed that my skilled playing would open up the space for more girls to play football.
There were just 200 girls when I first joined MTG in 2002, while today there are over 9,000 girls playing football in Kilifi and Kwale Counties. I feel proud because our society now accepts girls playing football, going to school and pursuing their careers. This was not the case when my mother was young. She was required to be a homemaker, labourer and sometimes her peers would be forced to get married to older men. I did not want a miserable life and that’s why I put into practice the skills I learnt during MTG’s weekly reproductive health sessions on decision making and negotiation.
My football career has grown over time. I played for MTG United Team in the National Women’s league and later joined a football club in a neighbouring town. MTG supported me to join university through a scholarship, because my parents were not able to help me. I also became one of the players for Kenya Methodist University football team.
I currently play for the Kenya National Football team, Harambee Starlets. I have participated in national and international tournaments. I was the top goal scorer for the 2016 COTIF Women’s Football Tournament in Valencia, Spain, where I scored five goals in four matches. My team also participated in the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations 2016 in Cameroon – the first time ever for the team to reach this level of the competition.
In September 2017, Esse also played for the Moving the Goalposts team in the UN Global Goals World Cup in New York, where they chose to play for Goal 5 – gender equality. The team won the tournament and took the trophy back home to Kenya! Find out more about Moving the Goalposts' work here.