Research page

Kick it like a Girl! Young Women Push Themselves Through Football in the African Public Space

Project team: Béatrice Bertho, University of Applied Sciences and Arts (HES SO, Switzerland); Fatou Diop Sall, University Gaston Berger, Senegal; Françoise Grange Omokaro, The Graduate Institute, Geneva; Dominique Malatesta, University of Applied Sciences and Arts (HES SO, Switzerland); Désiré Manirakiza, Catholic University of Central Africa, Cameroon.

Time line: 2018-2022

Funder: This research project is funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) within their joint Swiss Programme for Research on Global Issues for Development (r4d Programme).



Way beyond a simple sport, football is a social institution in Africa. It occupies both the physical and the symbolic space and gives its practitioners access to material resources, networks and recognition. More and more girls love and play the game, but since it is considered masculine by essence, female players are seen as deviant and they have to struggle in order to take part.



This project proposes to examine the engagement of girls in junior football teams as a real experience of citizenship. The collective and associative aspects of girls’ commitment to play football are crucial to understanding the processes of confronting, interpreting and renegotiating the gender norms and social roles. The project is based on two case studies in Africa: Cameroon and Senegal. For each, the researchers will examine the following perspectives:

  1. playing in a local club as a political experience for girls;
  2. membership in a social group, such as a football club, as a means to confront individually and collectively the norms that structure society; and
  3. gender sensitivity to public policies regarding youth.

What characterises this ethnographic research project is its inclusiveness of girls during the research and the dissemination of the results. Young football players will be active participants in the project through the production of a corpus of audio-visual data, a documentary collaborative filmmaking process and communication to political actors and their peers. Through this process, the aim is to propose a renewed gender agenda on participatory forms of citizenship for young women.

Gender Centre

Kick It like a Girl!

More on the project and its methodology