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Basic education and gender equality

Real lives

When soccer helps a girl from a poor suburb of Djibouti City

© UNICEFDjibouti/2004/Pirozzi
Kontali village in the district of Dikhil. Dhikil is one of the 4 rural district of the country. The rate of girl's enrolment is particularly low in that district.

Hayablé (Balbala) – Southern suburb of Djibouti’s capital city, June 2004- Born into a family of 9 siblings, Fatouma Osman is 23 years old. She is one of the few girls in her neighborhood who are into sports in general, soccer in particular.

As is the case for most people living in the “Hayablé” section of Balbala (about 4 miles from downtown), her family has no electricity or access to running water. Finding work and helping her family has become an obsession for her, especially since her father, a construction worker, has become disabled after an accident on a construction site.

To provide for her family, her mother looks for the best locations in the streets of Balbala to sell orange and lemon juice, which she does all day long.

As for Fatouma, she has been unemployed for 5 years, having had to quit school at the age of 17 for insufficient grades, then being fortunate enough to work as a waitress in two downtown restaurants, about 4 miles from her home, as soon as she went into active life.

After one year, she decided to breach her contract. Why? Because she was working late and after midnight there is no public transportation, and she had to pay between 500 and 1,000 FD daily (US $3.00 to $6.00) for a taxi fare back to Hayablé. After a year of sacrifices, Fatouma made an assessment of the situation: almost 80 per cent of her monthly salary of 30,000 FD ($170) went into taxi costs. 

She is active in a neighborhood association called UTE BOKA, which enabled her to receive training in first aid and safety. This has been a growth area since an American base was set up in Djibouti after the September 11 events and the volume of maritime business increased considerably pursuant to the diversion of most of Ethiopia’s trade to Djibouti harbor.  

She says that she is quietly awaiting an opportunity, massaging her sore knee which got a hit in a national league game. Wistfully, she talks about the final of July 5 supported by UNICEF and FIFA through the Djibouti Soccer Association, where the natural links between school and sports are being showcased.  

Soccer has been Fatouma’s passion since she was 7. She says that it is thanks to soccer that she can withstand financial difficulties and poverty. “As soon as I finished my school homework, I took refuge in soccer, which would and still does bring me invaluable moral comfort”, and she goes on to say: “My father has always been opposed to it, but I know that with soccer I forget all the problems of the world, I get totally engrossed, I can’t explain!”

She hopes that she will find work soon. Until she does,  she finds some comfort in helping a girl friend who runs an association promoting sports for girls; she also helps train children’s teams and volunteers as a referee.



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