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Meet Vijani Amani Pamoja

Using football to secure the futures of marginalised pregnant girls in Kenya

September 25, 2020 

From September 15-25 we have been highlighting the stories and work of our 2020 Beyond Sport Global Award Shortlisters who are using sport to address marginalization aninequality. Kenya’s Vijani Amani Pamoja (VAP) is one of them. Learn more about the inspiring work they are doing to support pregnant adolescent girls and young women in Nairobi, Kenya. 

With nearly 2 out of 10 girls between the ages of 15 and 19 reported to be pregnant or have had a child already, Kenya has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in East Africa. Tragically, 6,300 Kenyan girls and women die preventable deaths during pregnancy and childbirth each year. 

Enouce Ndeche, Executive Director of VAP, is blunt on the situation stating that the majority of young girls, many who live in marginalised and unsafe settings “have been put on the backburner when it comes to economic empowerment and issues of sexual reproductive health. 

The adolescent girls, who live in overcrowded urban areas with run-down housing and high levels of poverty, face considerable risks affecting their education, health and well-being. Already at risk for teenage pregnancy, they are also vulnerable to child and forced marriage, unprotected sex and rape, HIV and other health issues. The pregnancies contribute to a high school drop-out rate, as the girls are frequently forced to give up their education. This makes life even more precarious as they have fewer skills and opportunities for employment to provide for their new families. 

COVID-19 is only worsening the situation. Over three months of lockdown during the pandemic152,000 Kenyan teenage girls became pregnant — a 40% increase of the country's monthly average. The pandemic lockdown measures have also increased gender-based violence considerably, making it harder for survivors to report abuse and seek help. 

VAP’s mission is to turn the tide, protecting girls and helping to Secure Futures’ for these young mothers, and to engage with young people from the program to become peer role models and mentors for the community. The program uses a girl-centric model to create a safe space that focuses on life skill education, parenting, support and income generating activities. The youth are great agents of driving the change, so we at Vijani Amani Pamoja are using the youth to be mentors of other young people,” says Ndeche. 

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The positive results for the young mothers taking part in the program are substantial. With VAP’s social support, they now know of a place or person in their community where they can report violence, abuse, discuss reproductive health and support their mental wellbeing. 

"I found a family in Secure Futures Program, my coach has mentored me. we were taken to Bahati Health Centre where we registered for Linda Mama services. My prenatal clinic and delivery was free. When I got my baby my coach came to visit and it felt good to see her," said one of the participants. "The best thing I learned was how to breastfeed and wash my baby. It is my first baby and I did not have any experience on raising a child."

VAP use the power and the popularity of football as a metaphor to drive social and economic development. “Football is such an effective tool, if we look around the world football is like a religion in itself; football is like a spark,” says Ndeche. 

The Secure Futures program establishes ‘safe sport spaces free from societal discrimination with female coaches who are strict on maintaining confidentiality. These coaches regularly engage with the girls in sport and play-based methodologies, forming strong relationships and increasing their support networks. 

At the heart of the program is a desire to increase the self-reliance of young mothers. This is the aim of the Employability and Entrepreneurship Initiative where they are able to gain knowledge and skills related to livelihoods and income generation, with the final goal of safe employment. 

As one of the program’s participants said: “I really thank Vijani Amani Pamoja because I have gained more skills and I’m also empowered compared to how I was before.” 

In March, the program was forced to stop because of the lockdown measures. However, small gains have been made with 25 participants joining business training and receiving seed grants to start their small businesses, cushioning them during tough economic times. 

With 20 years of programming and providing life and social values to the youth in Nairobi’s slums through the power of footballNdeche wants to grow the program from Nairobi to across all of Kenya. 

“It means a lot for our work to be recognised, it means that the job that we do on a daily basis and the time we spend with our participants is not done in vain and the changes we are making in our communities is recognised, making us very happy. 

The Secure Futures Program from Vijani Amani Pamoja is a 2020 Beyond Sport Global Awards Shortlister in the Sport for Reduced Inequalities category. Learn more about the rest of this year’s shortlist and follow their journeys at beyondsport.org/journey 

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“I am greatly energized by the children I work with. I definitely think that helping with other’s development is the best way to get a real understanding of yourself."