The project Girlz kickin HIV not only offers plenty of sports and fun to underprivileged youth. It also makes for opportunities to openly talk about difficult topics like sexism, discrimination, HIV/AIDS, or homosexuality.
My name is Portia Mafokwane, I'm 29 years old, and I live in the township Soshanguve near Pretoria in South Africa. I started coaching when I was 22 so that I could help young women to make their way in a male-dominated society. Growing up as a football player, I faced a lot of discrimination from my community. My dream is to one day coach the national team Banyana Banyana.
What I do
I live in a disadvantaged neighbourhood that is affected by crime, unemployement, teenage pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and other social problems. I train young people from the age of 7 to 19. Practice is each week, Tuesday through Friday from 4 to 6pm. On the weekends, I take them to play games with and against other teams.
GIRLS KICKIN HIV is a girls' team from my organization. There, we combine football and other sporting activities with messages about HIV/AIDS, discrimination, abuse and other problems that can affect young women. We also have weekly meetings to openly talk about and discuss HIV/AIDS, homosexuality, sexism and discrimination in women’s football and other relevant matters. We try to use football as a tool for social change to improve the life quality of young women, and to exert a positive impact on their lives.
What do we need to be successful? What are our greatest obstacles?
Sometimes we find it hard to reach a high level because of the financial challenges we face. The reasons for this are lack of support and sponsoring. As a non-profit organization from a disadvantaged community, we heavily depend on donations and sponsorships.
With more money we could play in the official women’s league of our city. The women’s league would offer a great chance to get into contact with professional women’s coaches and teams. I think if we had better equipment and played in a professional league instead of only in our township, the girls would take football more seriously and get more actively involved, which would then result in less teenage pregnancies for example. We need better infra structure in order to reach even more young girls. For instance, I am dreaming of a football academy. Here, we could coach the ‘stars of tomorrow’ and raise the level of women’s football to that of men’s football.
What can I achieve with my work?
Working for the community can be hard sometimes but my patience and passion for football help me keep going. I have created a great environment for sport, play, and fun, and given young “stars” the chance for participation. And we have taken part in an international football tournament organized by the German Football Federation and DISCOVER FOOTBALL. Moreover, with our project we give the girls a stage to talk openly about things the cannot discuss with their parents at home.
Portia Mafokwane is manager of the team GirlZ kickin HIV and head of the Ahitlangeni Community Development Project. Additionally, she is currently working as a volunteer coach at Dimakatso elementary school.