13 June 2018

Kick it like a girl! Fran├žoise Grange Omokaro co-awarded SNF & SDC grant

Françoise Grange Omokaro, Lecturer in Anthopology and Sociology at the Graduate Institute, has been co-awarded a grant by the Swiss Programme for Research on Global Issues for Development (r4d Programme), a joint funding initiative of the National Science Foundation and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation for a research project Kick it like a Girl ! Young Women Push Themselves Through Football in the African Public Space.

Ms Grange Omokaro will co-manage the four-year study with Prof. Dominique Malatesta, main applicant (University of Applied Sciences and Arts, HES SO, Switzerland), in collaboration with Prof. Fatou Diop (University Gaston Berger, Sénégal) and Dr Désiré Manirakiza (Catholic University of Central Africa, Cameroun). The project will be coordinated by Dr Béatrice Bertho and hosted at HES-SO Lausanne.

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. The objective of this project is to study the participation of girls in public and social life in contemporary African societies via the examination of women junior football clubs. 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. In practical terms, 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.

The goal of the project is thus to address specifically Sustainable Development Goal number 5 on gender equality and the empowerment of girls and women. The research will be conducted in Cameroon and Senegal with research institutions and scholars in the field of sport policies and gender studies. The novelty of the project in the field of development studies lies both within its object and the research process itself.

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.

Photo credit: Louisa Malatesta