Changing the Game for Girls

Girl playing soccerGrassroot Soccer is excited to share our most recent research publication, which investigates one of our programs for adolescent girls in South Africa. The article “Using soccer to build confidence and increase HCT uptake among adolescent girls: a mixed-methods study of an HIV prevention programme in South Africa” was published in Sport in Society, 2015. Read the article here. 

At Grassroot Soccer, we think it is critical to have a meaningful vision for how we use sport as a means to promote the transformation of inequalities that shape girls’ disproportionate HIV risk. In South Africa, HIV prevalence among girls 15-19 is eight times higher than among boys of the same age (Shisana et al, 2014.)

We advocate for engaging men and boys as partners in promoting gender equality and continue to work with diverse partners to understand our role in reshaping the social and structural factors that constrain girls from reaching their potential.

While we acknowledge that social change is complex, we hold a strong conviction that individuals and groups of adolescent girls already have the potential to transcend their own circumstances – no matter how latent or overlooked their power is. We see time and again that, given the opportunity, girls thrive. We think soccer is a powerful mechanism for creating social capital among adolescents and helping girls question the roles and expectations that shape gender. Girls can see themselves in our Coaches – young female leaders from their communities. When girls bond with our Coaches, the connection often triggers a sense of new possibilities.

Importantly, in our research, we found that of the 1,953 participants offered HIV Counseling and Testing (HCT), 68.5% tested – more than 4 times the estimated national average among this age group. All participants who tested positive were referred for support services. HCT is the gateway to a continuum of services for people living with HIV and has been shown to correspond to safer sexual behavior. We also found statistically significant improvements in HIV-related knowledge, attitudes and communication, which were attributed to the girls’ participation in GRS activities. Qualitative findings highlighted the value girls placed on coach–participant relationships and their improvements in self-efficacy to avoid HIV.

Grassroot Soccer is in the process of conducting further research to gauge the impact of its work with adolescent girls, including measuring experiences of violence as well as health and education outcomes of those girls participating in our sport programs.


Grassroot Soccer and Woza Soccer Announce Partnership to Bring American High Schoolers on Soccer Immersion Trips to South Africa in Summer 2015

Norwich, VT (February 18, 2015) - Grassroot Soccer (GRS), an international nonprofit that uses the power of soccer to educate, inspire, and mobilize youth to live healthy lives,​ and Woza Soccer, a Seattle-based nonprofit that leads American high school soccer players on life-changing, soccer-based service trips to developing countries, today announced a partnership which will allow high school soccer players to experience the work and impact of GRS during an 18-day trip to Cape Town, South Africa in June and July of 2015.

Woza Group Photo

Woza Soccer was founded by Chris Kaimmer, a Grassroot Soccer field intern from 2009-2010 who later went on to teach high school history and coach soccer in Boston. He returned to his home of Seattle in 2013 to launch Woza, whose name is inspired by the local slang he heard on Zulu soccer fields surrounding his GRS intern site of Mtubatuba, South Africa (“Woza” translates to “Come” in isiZulu, but in soccer lingo it means “Pass the ball!”). “The ease of connecting to South Africans through soccer during my year as a GRS intern was a key inspiration when I started Woza,” said Chris Kaimmer recently on a visit to the GRS office in Norwich.

Chris as intern

Woza founder Chris Kaimmer (front left) during his GRS internship.

Woza Soccer led its first trip in July 2014, bringing 12 high school soccer players from across the United States to South Africa where they worked with a variety of soccer teams and sport organizations including a series of service projects with Grassroot Soccer.  The 2015 trip will be entirely focused on GRS and the group will spend almost every day of the trip at the Football For Hope Centre in the township of Khayelitsha, both learning about and actively engaging in the work of GRS. The group’s experience will culminate in assisting with the organization and execution of a SKILLZHoliday Camp, one of the key programs that GRS uses to empower South African youth to live healthy lives.

“Partnering with Woza is a natural fit for Grassroot Soccer, as we are all about getting youth engaged in living healthier lives through soccer,” said Rob Adams, Grassroot Soccer President & COO. “The high school players who make these life-changing trips will get to see first-hand the powerful and positive impact of sport on the lives of young people living in challenging circumstances, while bringing their own enthusiasm and energy to driving meaningful impact.”

Making Ragballs

Making ragballs in Khayelitsha, South Africa.

Aside from working with GRS, the group will play soccer every day (training with local teams and playing friendly matches around Cape Town), visit a wildlife reserve and also learn about the complex history and culture of South Africa. Chris Kaimmer and a female co-leader will serve as leaders and chaperones for the duration of the trip.

Coaching soccer

The experience is open to rising 10th-12th graders and will take place between June 29-July 16, 2015.  Full details about the trip – including a detailed itinerary and online application instructions – can be found on Woza’s GRS trip page here: The first round application deadline for the GRS trip is March 1st, 2015.  For more details about the opportunity for teenage soccer players to travel to South Africa and work with GRS this summer, contact Chris Kaimmer at (206) 795-0936 or  Details about Woza Soccer can be found at, and check out the video below for an overview.


Woza Soccer from Chris Kaimmer on Vimeo.


SKILLZ Girl Expands to Seven Countries

Grassroot Soccer (GRS) is proud to relay that we are now running our girls-only, culturally tailored HIV prevention program, SKILLZ Girl, in seven African countries. SKILLZ Girl is an adapted version of GRS South Africa’s SKILLZ Street curriculum. For each project, the GRS Research & Development team works to modify the curriculum to align with the partner’s cultural setting and available resources.

SKILLZ Girl Nigeria

Caring Coaches in Nigeria learn the SKILLZ Girl curriculum at a training session.

According to UNAIDS, young women aged 15-24 account for 31% of all new HIV infections in Sub-Saharan Africa. The expansion of SKILLZ Girl is a response to this alarming statistic, and provides opportunities for girls and young women to build their self-esteem, learn valuable life skills, and understand the health options available to them.

At the end of January, GRS held our latest training of SKILLZ Girl coaches with our partner in Nigeria, the Youth Empowerment Development Initiative (YEDI). The program is now active in Ethiopia and Senegal (through partner Peace Corps), Malawi (through partner Concern Malawi), Tanzania (through partner IDYDC), Nigeria (through partner YEDI), Zimbabwe and South Africa (through Grassroot Soccer programming).

Grassroot Soccer is dedicated to empowering female youth across Africa to stop the spread of HIV!

SKILLZ Girl Nigeria Coaches

A group of Caring Coaches is ready to empower girls in Nigeria with SKILLZ.