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Breaking the silence through football

HODI's Breaking the Silence through football uses the power of sport to create a safe space for girls

Photo of Fatuma Abdulkadir Adan
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What problem does your innovation solve?

Marsabit in northern Kenya is affected by ongoing drought and inter-tribal conflicts and girls and women have no voice or choice. They cannot be seen or heard and the culture is so deeply rooted that even talking about the issues that affect women and girls is a taboo. Female Genital Mutilation, Early forced marriages, beading, girls dropping out of schools are some of the major challenges girls have to deal with on daily basis. HODI uses football to create a safe space and break the silence.

Explain your innovation.

Our innovation is using football to break the silence on violence affected by violence at personal level from FGM, early marriage and beading. Mostly during droughts and emergencies girls are given away to recover some of the lost livestock. HODI has undertaken baseline surveys to establish the actual situation before implementation and end of the year survey. We have build a curriculum based on the need of the girls from Being yourself, be empowered, be healthy and be money savvy. Mapping out the safe places on a community map, working with teachers in school to facilitate peer education sessions, football skills and life skills. The young girls graduate as Champions to run the program themselves. Breaking the silence won the beyond sports award for social inclusion in 2015. The intervention also engages the parents and communities to ensure there build up to support the girls. In the beginning it was difficult to even engage the girls as they are hidden at home or not allowed to participate in sports.

Who benefits?

The girls are the main beneficiaries of the intervention it crafts new ways to communicate with the girls through sports. It also encourages the girls to learn how to use their voice and have choices on what to do with their life. The program is based in Marsabit Kenya and we are working with 13 schools, we have 2 days sessions on Tuesday and Thursday. Normally an after class sessions which includes in class and out in the field. 415 girls benefited from the project in 2015, with 1040 benefiting over the last 3 years. Some 6 young women have taken leadership positions at HODI as a direct result of their participation in the project. In life skills, only 22% of girls at the start of the 2015 knew how to prevent pregnancy, compared to 84% at the end of the project. While only 44% of our girls knew a safe place at the start of the year, 95% of them knew where to find a safe space at the end of the year. We used salesforce to measure impact, record attendance, base and endline.

How is your innovation unique?

Most organisations will look at the physical structures in terms of safety and as HODI our is unique as it looks at the soft skills for the girls to deal with issues that affect them. The girls in Marsabit and other northern Kenya regions face major constraints affecting their safety during conflicts, droughts and also traditional systems that makes the parents restrict movement of the girls. In an extremely difficult situation we managed to pull together a team of girls to play football. This has helped girls cope on their own when found in unsafe places. Breaking the silence is an award winning intervention for social inclusion, we have used it for the past 5 years and we would like to upscale and share with the world. Especially those affected by different emergencies. We tried working with girls alone and it backfired so we had to engage the parents and the communities just to ensure safety of the girls is guaranteed. Using peer educators is a key underlying factor for success.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

What keeps me up at night is the fact that as a local organisation is doing fundraising. We have developed modalities of making the programs sustainable beyond donor funding. We need to figure out how to build a thriving organisation with a reserve of at least 12 months and a sound social enterprise where 100% of the revenue is reinvested back into HODI programs and core costs. HODI has a HODI tailoring center where child mothers are trained in tailoring and life skills. This will form the basis and foundation of HODI's Social Enterprise.

Tell us more about you.

HODI was founded in 2003 as a community based organisation and registered as an NGO in 2007. It has its operations in Marsabit County in Northern Kenya and has 5 key focus areas of Education, Advocacy, Peace building, Football for social change and sustainable livelihood. HODI currently works with 152 communities using innovative approaches of football for social change, Mala-Marii a consultative dialogue, community saving scheme and breaking the silence on fgm, early marriage and beading.

What is the primary type of emergency setting where your innovation would operate?

  • Armed conflict
  • Extreme drought

Emergency Setting - Elaborate

Other than the drought and conflict situation the girls are affected by the traditional settings that exposes the girls to violence and hey end up dropping out of school

Where will your innovation be implemented?

We are based in Marsabit County in Northern Kenya. We are expanding the intervention to the four sub-counties and across the border in ethiopia. It can be replicated in other location across the world.

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

In-country Networks

We are part of a network of organisations that work with girls in Marsabit and in Kenya. Globally we are part of organisations that use football for social change. We work closely with communities, schools, ministry of education, local and international organisations. We would love to link up with research organisation and institutions.

Sector Expertise

  • I've worked in a sector related to my innovation for more than a year.

Sector Expertise - Elaborate

I am an advocate and the founder of HODI. It started out as an advocacy intervention and we built in te aspect of education and quality of it. We did it as a team coming up with criteria for selecting the schools and communities in Marsabit. A team of peer educators who volunteer their time and the young girls who become champions.

Innovation Maturity

  • Existing Prototype or Pilot: I have tested a part of my solution with users and am iterating.

Organization Status

  • We are a registered non-profit, charity, NGO, or community-based organization.

Organization Location

We are registered as an NGO in Kenya and as a charity in Ethiopia. Our head offices are in Marsabit and a liaison office in Nairobi.


How has your Idea changed based on feedback?

The feedback has made me add more factors and details to help explain our idea. We have also re-look at the idea and helped us to think through the issue of financial sustainability beyond the idea. We are currently looking at building a social enterprise for HODI whose revenue will be used to support HODI program.

Who will implement this Idea?

The Idea will be implemented by HODI staff based in Marsabit, Kenya. We will have 10 staff members supporting the actual implementation of the idea and we will also have part time coaches and volunteers to support the idea.

What challenges do your end-users face? (1) What is the biggest challenge that your end-users face on a day-to-day, individual level? (2) What is the biggest systems-level challenge that affects your end-users?

We are focused on the girls and the challenges the girls face day to day. So the program addresses issues raised in the baseline. Use of peer education ensures the guidance and mentoring while engaging the wider community. The ongoing conflict and tribal fighting is a huge challenge; the traditional practices of FGM, beading and early marriage is a day to day challenge. Despite the fact that their is a law that outlaws the harmful practices the girls are faced with the challenges. The lack of investment into the education of girls where educating a girls is seen as a waste of time and resources. Further, girl drop out and are shunned and ostracised by the community instead of being given a chance return to school and resume studies but as HODI we do not offer scholarships to the returnee

How is your organization considering sustainable growth in order to continue making an impact over time?

As the Director, I am now not involved in direct program implementation instead my role is that of being a fundraising point person. We also have a resource mobilisation plan that is linked to HODI 2020 Strategic Plan. We are also part of a network of other organisations that use football to build synergy and mobilise resources together for football4good. We are currently in the processes of setting up a social enterprise to help generate revenue which will be reinvested 100% back into the programs & core costs for HODI. This will help build a thriving HODI which is financially sustainable.

Tell us about your vision for this project: (1) share one sentence about the impact that you would like to see from this project in five years and (2) what is the biggest question/hurdle you need to address to get there?

IMPACT: "By 2020, we aim to increase our impact in Northern Kenya, reaching 4,000 girls directly through Breaking the Silence model and 6,000 through Shoot to score not to kill intervention" Our current model has been tested and has worked, where we had challenges we have adopted. We will achieve the vision for the program by improving on quality, ensuring we have a social enterprise generating income for HODI. We have already shared the model with other organisation for increased impact.

How do you currently measure (or plan to measure) outcomes for this project?

HODI uses a mixed quantitative and qualitative system to monitor implementation and evaluate impact of its program. The baseline forms the basis for monitoring and we do undertake end-line survey. We have participants list to capture attendance and follow up meetings with peer educators and communities to capture feedback. The meeting and training of peer educators on monthly basis ensures quality of the program and measures progress to positive change stories and learning using Salesforce.

What is the timeline for your project Idea? What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years?

In the beginning we implemented for 3 years (2013-2015), the last two years we had no funding but we have been able to sustain the program. In the next three years 2018-2020 we hope to upscale our program and increase its impact.

My organization's operational budget for 2016 was:

  • Between $100,000 and $500,000 USD

How many of your team’s paid, full-time staff are currently based in the location where the beneficiaries of your proposed Idea live?

  • Between 5-10 paid, full-time staff

Is your organization registered in the country that you intend to implement your Idea in?

  • We are registered in all countries where we plan to implement.

How long have you and your colleagues been working on this Idea together?

  • More than 2 years

What do you need the most support with for your innovation?

  • Business Development / Partnerships Support
  • Business Model Support
  • Communications / Marketing / Graphic Design


Join the conversation:

Photo of Chris

Thanks for the link, Fatuma...I love the football with the SDGs on it!

Photo of Chris

Great to see organizations using sport as a means to enhance safe education for girls. Best of luck to you!

Photo of Fatuma Abdulkadir Adan

Thanks Chris! It is very unique especially in the North of Kenya and sports is one of the best tools to even achieve the Global Goals!

Photo of Chris

Great point about the global goals! It's also one of the things we increasingly try and focus on - namely how Sport-for-Development can feed into wider development goals such as the UN SDGs. It's great how many are relevant, whether it be health, education, or gender equality, and often others besides. It's been a pleasure to cross paths about our shared aims!

Photo of Fatuma Abdulkadir Adan

Thank you Chris! Definitely there is a huge link and potential to focus on sports for development. Take a moment to check out the football4good magazine with our story!

Photo of OpenIDEO

Hi Fatuma and Team!

We’re excited to share feedback and questions from our experts with you. We encourage you to think about this feedback as you continue to improve and refine your Idea. You are welcome to respond in the comments section and/or to incorporate feedback into the text of your Idea. Your idea and all associated comments will all be reviewed during the final review process.

Based on your knowledge and experience, is this a new approach or bold way of answering the challenge question?
One expert said, “This is a well-developed project with minimal risk that has the potential to make long-lasting impact on girl’s education and empower them to feel safe and stand up for their rights. The implementation of peer education seems to be particularly useful making this project potentially long-lasting and introducing significant changes for current and future generations. Using football as a way to come together also seems more favorable than a program solely focused on education. The inclusion of boys (as mentioned in the video) to improve outcomes for girls is a major strength and may contribute to a community wide change of attitudes without leaving it at the sole responsibility of the girls.”

Is your idea human-centered?
One expert shared, “I think the project does well in addressing user needs and adopts a human-centered approach. Specifically, the use of peer mentoring and inclusion of the wider community make this project desirable. Clearly, the organization has learned from a previous failed attempt, so this project seems to be well underway and able to adapt to changing needs and open to re-evaluate methods when things don’t work out. This project seems feasible and data so far supports its effectiveness. Through the train-the-trainer approach I think the project may be able to become independent and turn into a community run program given time.”

Expert’s thoughts on your business model:
Experts had a hard time assessing this based on the information shared. They are interested to learn what your current model is and what ideas you have to increase financial sustainability in the future?

Final thoughts and questions:
1) How do you encourage the wider community to support this project?
2) How do you engage girls that are not interested in participating in the football games or are discouraged to participate?
3) How is your program novel or different from similar initiatives in the space?

One expert said, “I was impressed by this project for several reasons. First, I like that you mention the inclusion of boys in helping improve outcomes for girls. Boys and men play an important part in helping girls thrive and this is often overlooked. Second, I appreciate the peer education model you propose. Third, it's great to see that you monitor progress, collect data to see whether the girls actually benefit from your sessions and that you are able to adjust when things don’t work. Finally, combining the educational part of this program with a fun activity, football is great to build supporting connections with others.

Join us for Storytelling Office Hours tomorrow, Tuesday, July 25, 2017 from 8:30AM - 9:30AM PST! RSVP here: Storytelling is an incredibly useful tool to articulate an Idea and make it come to life for those reading it. Don’t forget - August 6 at 11:59PM PST is your last day to make changes to your Idea on the OpenIDEO platform.

Have questions? Email us at

Looking forward to reading more and thank you for the important work you are doing!

Photo of Fatuma Abdulkadir Adan

Dear Team,
Below is our response.

a) Current Model and thoughts for financial sustainability
In the beginning we worked with older girls as trainers and peer educators. As HODI we also provided opportunity to engage the volunteers and offer employment opportunity. This served as an incentive on top of providing financial support for those still in school and learning. Currently we have two former peer educators who are full time staff and support the program. Training of younger girls who are school going as peer educators and young leaders become an alternative after 1st year. This cuts on the costs for the peer educators and also saves time for engagement. The young leaders are already within the school and are also easily accessible for follow up clarifications by their peers. It has also built leadership capacities for younger girls with two presidents elected in a mixed school.

At the organisation level HODI under the current strategic plan (2016-2020) one of the key priority is to initiate a social enterprise currently in planning stages but to be built on existing life skill center which has 15 tailoring machines. This will be a business model to generate income for HODI programs in future. It will involve selling of products and reinvesting back the revenue to run programs. It will definitely reduce dependency and enhance financial sustainability for HODI.

b) How do you encourage the wider community to support this project?
HODI currently works with 150 communities and supports them to come up with action plans to address issues affecting them within their respective villages. Each school has feeder villages and the communities sending their children are also engaged alongside the schools. We also an education program that ensures most vulnerable children access education especially girls. This ensures that girl are engaged and in case they drop out are returned to school. In the past year over 500 children mostly girls were returned to school.

As HODI begins a new program always a baseline survey is undertaken which forms the basis of any future engagement. The information gathered is also used to inform the foundation of the new intervention. The coaches, peer educators and field managers are all from the community in most instances they are nominated to HODI by the community.

HODI works with 150 communities in the 4 sub counties of Marsabit. This communities meet every twice a month to deliberate on issues that affect them and come up with action plans. First they look internally for existing capacities and take action and in instances of gaps then HODI links them up with stakeholders to implement the action plans. In most of the communities currently FGM, Early Marriage and Beading are key issues affecting girls and as such is priority for most of the communities. Making the communities directly involved and engaged in the process of Breaking the Silence.

c) How do you engage girls that are not interested in participating in the football games or are discouraged to participate?
Currently most of the girls are interested in football, most were not allowed to take part in any sporting activity so football provides the one and only chance. But we also have the peer education session which does not include the actual participation in football and gives a chance to the girls not interested in football. Some of the girls take refereeing, first aid and emceeing during the football. This ensures they are able to participate without playing the actual game of football.

d) How is your program novel or different from similar initiatives in the space?
Our program is very unique and innovative, Breaking the Silence won the Beyond Sports Award for Social Inclusion in 2015. It is among the first and one of its kind in the whole of Northern Kenya and Horn of Africa where football is used as a tool to engage girls. It gives the girls a voice and a choice by placing them at the center of decision making processes. It's not up to anyone else to stand up for them they need to be able to stand up for themselves; tell their own stories in their own words and be a champion of their destiny. Below is the link

The HODI model is holistic in that it works not only with the girls themselves but with parents, teachers, community and stakeholders including the Ministry of Education in Breaking the Silence. They learn life skills including how to use there voice, confidence, just being yourself and appreciating who you are as a girl. Also about rights and responsibilities; FGM and its effects; safe spaces, Leaning to say No; On personal hygiene, health and something about money. Ours is a holistic approach and does not just deal with one aspect of the girl but looks at protection, safe spaces, support from brother and father and putting the girl as a champion in Breaking the Silence on issues that affect them.

Photo of Fatuma Abdulkadir Adan

Hey Emily Kruger! Thanks for the shout out and we will soon be hosting a training of coaches. Our breaking the silence had lots of success with 100% retention of girls in school. I felt we should share

Photo of Emily Kruger

Hey Fatuma!! Love to see HODI all are amazing! From, Coaches Across Continents