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At a glance: Guinea

Football boosts girls’ education

© UNICEF video
Guinean girls playing in a national football tournament

By Sarah Crowe

LABE, Guinea, 6 April 2005 – Guinean girls turned out for a national football tournament this week in a bid to beat the boys at their own game and boost girls’ education.

Guinea is one of 25 countries participating in UNICEF’s ‘25 by 2005 Girls’ Education Campaign’, designed to get more girls into school.  In Guinea only an estimated 7 per cent of secondary-school-age girls are enrolled at the secondary level (source: SOWC). As a way of increasing that number, UNICEF Guinea and the local arm of FIFA, football’s international governing body, have taken the first step towards establishing a permanent national girls’ football league.

The love of football has kick-started the ambitions of 18-year-old Doumbouya Bah of Labe. She wears plastic sandals on the dusty football field, which give her bad blisters – but her dreams take her to the sporting glories of Paris and New York. As captain of her team she was among the first Guinean girls to take part in the national girls’ football tournament which began this month. Her football achievements have made her a star.

© UNICEF Guinea/2005/Crowe
Doumbouya Bah with the certificates that bear testament to her successful football career.

A mini-revolution in Guinean society

“Sport is really great. It’s good for your health and on top of that it gets you ahead. I’m number one here. I’ve been here for three years now and everybody knows me. And that’s all because of sport,” says Doumbouya.

Doumbouya is planning to go abroad when she finishes her schooling next year. “It’s not good just to stay at home. Once you’re the boss, you can have babies if you want but you must make money first. I want to be as good as the boys and sport helps,” she says.

“Sports is a powerful vehicle to bring girls into the schools and to keep them there,” says UNICEF Communication Officer John Brittain. “The pride that the whole society is taking in their ladies is one of the greatest things we’re achieving here.”

For government officials this is nothing short of a mini-revolution in Guinean society. “We had a cultural barrier before, which meant it was extremely difficult for girls to wear a football jersey. That would have embarrassed the parents of the girl. Now we let girls to express themselves,” says Ibrahima Barry, national director in Guinea’s Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture.




3 April 2005:
UNICEF’s Sarah Crowe reports on how football is changing girls’ lives in Guinea.

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