|© UNICEF Djibouti/2004|
|Deka proudly holds the trophy she received for being the ‘most valuable player’ during a recent tournament.|
NEW YORK, 19 October 2004 – In the tiny East African nation of Djibouti, almost every boy plays football. But cultural traditions do not encourage girls to participate in sports. Therefore it is very unusual to find a young girl who avidly plays football. Deka, who started playing football at the age of three, is one such girl.
In Djibouti, only 10 per cent of elementary students reach secondary school because of a lack of space, and because of gender disparities. Deka had to leave school when she was 15 years old. Sports became her passion once she was out of school. Lacking a secondary education, she found work in a supermarket. She now works ten hours a day as a salesperson, which does not allow her much time to practice football.
Officially there are no football activities scheduled for girls after sunset. In order to get a chance to play, Deka has joined the (formerly) all-male football team at the supermarket. They train at night twice a week. She is very well accepted and very well respected by all of her team mates. With the support of the Djibouti National Federation of Football, she is now allowed to take time off from her job and play once a week when the national football competitions are on.
“I don’t like my job, but it’s hard to be a woman in Djibouti,” Deka says. Famous male football players often get job opportunities in other fields. "This isn’t the case for girls. People let us play football but when it comes to recognize our talents, nobody is around,” she says. This situation frustrates her, but does not kill her passion for the sport.
Deka comes from a large family of nine boys and two girls. She lives in a relatively poor neighbourhood. Her father recently retired from his job as a driver from the National Electricity Company. The economic situation of her family has improved since she and some of her brothers entered the workforce.
On Fridays, she helps her younger brothers with their homework. Deka says she wants to make sure her brothers and sisters are able to get the higher education that she was denied.
Despite numerous obstacles, Deka’s football skills have made her famous in Djibouti. She was named the best female football player by the National Football Federation, and has scored the most goals nationally during the last five years.
In a country where there are few opportunities for girls to advance in school and society, football has given Deka the opportunity to excel. As a famous football player, Deka embraces every opportunity to support activities that help the situation of girls and women in her country. In spite of all obstacles, Deka said she’ll never stop playing.