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UNHCR and Nike encourage Somali refugee girls to play sports


It has been a hard struggle, but UNHCR and its corporate partner Nike have had some success over the past three years in encouraging Somali girls to engage in sports at three refugee camps here in north-east Kenya.

When the partners launched their “Together for Girls” campaign in July 2004, less than 100 girls played sport compared to more than 5,000 boys in Dadaab, a three-camp complex hosting some 170,000 refugees.

None of the girls were from the mainly Muslim Somali community, which makes up 98 per cent of Dadaab’s refugee population. But today, more than 270 Somali refugee girls regularly play sports on the dusty camp facilities – most play volleyball, but some also enjoy badminton, handball, netball and football.

To meet cultural requirements, the girls have been given special sports clothing designed with the help of Nike.

The “Together for Girls” project, which has also received funding from the Japan Association for UNHCR, plans to include physical education in the curricula of Dadaab’s camp schools. That could help win broader acceptance among the Somali refugee community for the idea of sports for girls.