Growing up and living in Kibera, Kenya, Abdul Kassim was well aware of the disproportionate number of challenges faced by women due to the extreme gender inequalities that persist in the slums. After being raised by his aunts, mother, and grandmother and having a daughter himself, he felt that he needed to make a difference.
In 2002, Abdul started a soccer team for girls called Girls Soccer in Kibera (GSK), with the hope of fostering a supportive community and providing emotional and mental support for the young women in the town. The soccer program was a success, but the looming dangers of slum life persisted, and the young women continued to fall victim to the worst kinds of human atrocities. Indeed, it was the unyielding injustice of these conditions that led Abdul to the conclusion that soccer alone was not enough to create the necessary systemic change.
In 2006, after much work, the Kibera Girls Soccer Academy (KGSA) was established with their first class of 11 girls and 2 volunteer teachers. Today, KGSA is composed of 20 full-time staff, provides a host of artistic and athletic programs for more than 130 students annually, and continues to expand. By providing academics inside and outside of the classroom along with artistic and athletic opportunities, KGSA inspires the young women of Kibera to become advocates for change within their own communities and for Kenya as a whole.
Play Like a Girl tells the KGSA story through Abdul’s voice and vision and the stories of key staff and students. It is written by Ellie Roscher who spent 2 summers doing research at KGSA and several years writing this book.
– Shannon Schneeman, Executive Director, America SCORES New York
Author Ellie Roscher illuminates through a compilation of engaging stories how sports can play an important role in social change, how educating and supporting girls is one of the most important and unfinished works of the 21st century, and the critical role men can play in empowering girls.
– Mary Uran, Executive Director & Co-Founder, Girls on the Run Twin Cities
Play Like a Girl is about particular people who will charm you and show how desperate problems can be overcome. In that sense it is heartening and heart-warming. Through these stories we come to recognize how the human spirit will prevail.
– Brooks Goddard, TEAA President
Play Like a Girl is a riveting account of the founding of Kibera Girls Soccer Academy and the charismatic, dedicated and inquisitive personality at the center of it - Abdul Kassim– who made it all possible. The inhabitants of Africa’s largest urban slum are often depicted with broad, incomplete brush strokes but Play Like a Girl gives us history and nuance instead. We learn the history of Kibera, its position within the larger Nairobi ecosystem, the complex list of issues that affect a girl’s ability to stay in school and about each of the students and teachers who gave so much to make KGSA a reality.
– Dani Zacarias, Director of Content, Worldreader
Play Like a Girl is a moving journey into the heart and mind of Abdul Kassim, an extraordinary visionary committed to educating girls in the most impoverished area of Kenya. Author Ellie Roscher weaves a raw but uplifting story of the daily struggles, sacrifice, perseverance and triumphs at the Kibera Girls Soccer Academy. This beautifully written tribute to Kassim and his endearing students demonstrates the power of one person to transform a life and an entire community, one young girl at a time.
– Jill Iscol, Ed.D, President, IF Hummingbird Foundation
Inspiring to know there are many in this world dedicated to working selflessly to support others based on their own personal convictions. Kudos to the program and the book outlining the journey, well done.