Grassroot Soccer-Skillz Street - South Africa Regional Prize Winner!

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Grassroot Soccer-Skillz Street - South Africa Regional Prize Winner!

South Africa
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$1 million - $5 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

South Africa is enduring the world's largest HIV epidemic, with more than 5.7 million people infected. Grassroot Soccer (GRS) aims to dramatically reduce the spread of HIV in South Africa by rolling out a prevention campaign that, through the power of football, empowers young women with the knowledge, skills and support to live HIV free. Skillz Street combines a powerful HIV prevention and life skills curriculum (Generation Skillz) with an all-girls street soccer league emphasizing fair-play, teamwork, and community engagement. The intiative addresses the major social norms fueling South Africa's HIV epidemic: Intergenerational/Transactional Sex, Multiple Sexual Partner, Alcohol Abuse, and Gender Based Violence.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In 2008, 2.7 million people became infected with HIV worldwide: nearly 40 percent of these infections occurred among young people (15-24 years of age), and approximately 35 percent occurred in southern Africa (UNAIDS 2009). South Africa is enduring the world's largest HIV epidemic, with approximately 5.7 million (1 in 6) living with HIV. Young women are disproportionately infected, with rates more than four-times higher than those of their male peers. “This is an emergency. In Africa 75 percent of young people living with HIV are female, up from 62 percent in 2001," says Lisa MacCallum from the Nike Foundation. "We keep avoiding the epicenter of the epidemic, and it’s not working. The only way to halt the spread of HIV is to put girls at the center of HIV prevention by investing in comprehensive programs that address the combination of girls’ education, health, safety and economic empowerment.”

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Although the South African government has significantly increased access to HIV treatment, large scale prevention programs targeting young women have yet to be activated. Achieving the national goal of halving new HIV infections by 2011 largely depends on rolling out evidence-based, behavior change programs that challenges the social norms contributing to the epidemic. In a 2008 report, the International Working Group for Sport for Development and Peace stated: “Research on sport, gender and development indicates that sport can benefit girls and women by: enhancing health and well‐being; fostering self‐esteem and empowerment; facilitating social inclusion and integration; challenging gender norms; and providing opportunities for leadership and achievement.” Yet, within the South African Football Association — the 6th largest football association on the planet — fewer than 1% of registered players are female. Access to safe, public space for young women to play soccer is limited, further engraining destructive gender stereotypes around sports participation in South Africa. A girls‐targeted intervention, Skillz Street combines an activities‐based HIV prevention and life skills curriculum (Generation Skillz) with a fair-play street soccer league and peer-led community outreach activities. Led by Grassroot Soccer's Skillz Coaches, enhanced by the unique culture developed within Skillz programs, and reinforced by a national media campaign (Red Card), this girl‐centered football initiative creates a safe space for adolescent girls to play soccer, take action in their community, learn their HIV status, and share personal stories about HIV and AIDS.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Since 2003, Grassroot Soccer and its partners have provided comprehensive HIV prevention education to more than 300,000 youth, trained more than 3,000 GRS Coaches, and indirectly benefited hundreds of thousands more through outreach, diffusion, and multimedia. The GRS South Africa program has graduated more than 27,000 youth and trained more than 500 Coaches since 2006. In 2009-2010, GRS successfully piloted the Skillz Street model with more nearly 200 girls in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, and Kimberley. GRS also hosted a Girls Got Skillz Summit in April 2010, bringing together young female leaders from South Africa, Namibia, and the USA in a unique soccer-based, educational exchange program. Cindy Parlow, former USA national team football player, attend the summit. She had this to say about her experince in Africa with Grassroot Soccer, "As much fun and adventurous the first few days were as tourist, for me the trip did not really begin until D and I returned from Durban to the Western Cape School. I have never been a part of something were you could actually watch people's lives changing for the better. I still don't really have the words to express how much of an impact this trip and program had on me, my outlook on life and my role in this world. I am very inspired to continue to try to make a difference in young girls life from here in NC to all over the world. Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity! I will forever be grateful to you and grassroots soccer!".
About You
Grassroot Soccer
Section 1: About You
First Name


Last Name



Grassroot Soccer


, WC

Section 2: About Your Organization
Organization Name

Grassroot Soccer

Organization Phone

+27 21 426 5154

Organization Address

38 Hout Street, 5th Floor Cape Town, South Africa 8001

Organization Country

, WC

Your idea
Country your work focuses on

, NC

Do you have a patent for this idea?


Grassroot Soccer collaborates with leading thinkers in the world of girl’s empowerment and sport for development in order to ensure we continue to develop the best programs possible. Grassroot Soccer is also encouraging our current partners, including the English Premier League, to support this initiative.

Grassroot Soccer has launched the Red Card Campaign in collaboration with Johns Hopkins Health and Education South Africa, Matchboxology (Scrutinize), and Sonke Gender Justice. This will include national print and TV messaging which will reinforce the lessons learned at the grassroots level – Skillz Street.

The Generation Skillz intervention (core to Skillz Street) has been designed in accordance with the World Heath Organization’s criteria for scalable school-based interventions (WHO 2006) as well as the “17 Characteristics of Effective HIV and Sex Education Programmes,” developed through systematic review of 83 studies of adolescent-targeted programs (Kirby et al. 2007).

Grassroot Soccer piloted Skillz Street in Port Elizabeth, Kimberley and Cape Town. with 150 grade seven female learners in each of the three pilot sites.


In collaboration with, GRS has developed a state-of-the-art online monitoring and evaluation system.

More than 10 independent evaluation studies of GRS programs, conducted by researchers at the Children's Health Council, Harvard School of Public Health and other universities, have shown the GRS model to be effective in increasing students' knowledge, attitudes, resiliency skills, and communication related to HIV/AIDS. A 2006 study in Botswana found that GRS graduates, on average, share their knowledge with 5-8 others after graduation. GRS not only uses powerful role models as instructors, but also trains youth to become role models in their own communities, thereby reaching an audience far wider with HIV prevention messages.

A 2008 behavioral survey found that 2-5 years after the intervention, GRS graduates in Zimbabwe were nearly six-times less likely than their matched peers to report early sexual debut, four-times less likely to report sexual activity in the last year, and eight-times less likely to report ever having had more than one sexual partner.

We are currently in the process of reviewing the data from the Skillz Street Pilot programs.

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.

GRS is committed to scaling up the intervention throughout South Africa. Over the next year, we intend to conduct Skillz Street leagues in five sites, including Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Soweto, Bloemfontein, and KwaZulu‐Natal, reaching a total of 3,000 girls. Skillz Street will be led by 70 GRS Skillz Coaches, trained to deliver the intervention with young women.

At the end of year one we plan to integrate the HIV testing component more deeply into Skillz Street. Integrated Testing Using the power of football as a tool to bring youth together, and working closely with trusted testing, care, and treatment partners (such as MSF, New Start, and local Ministries of Health), GRS has found tremendous success in implementing HIV Counseling and Testing tournaments, which increase awareness about HIV testing and treatment services and empower South African youth to know their status. In the last year, GRS has had increasing success in integrating HCT services into our existing program delivery models in South Africa, and by incorporating these services into the growing Skillz Street model, we are confident that the power of extended interaction with strong community role models and education around HIV testing will provide a safe space for youth to learn their status through HCT opportunities integrated into the program. Based on participation in testing within existing GRS South Africa programs, we will aim for 70% of Skillz Street participants, or 2,100 girls, to undergo testing during the year‐long program.

Grassroot soccer must establish and maintain partnerships with like-minded organizations, corporations, and foundations to increase investment in girls programming.

Grassroot soccer must continue to develop strong partnerships and links with the South African government (Department of Education, Department of Health) to ensure sustainability. Because Grassroot Soccer currently operates programs in over twenty different sites across South Africa, local and national governmental support is essential. Over three years we will look to expand Skillz Street to every site.

Grassroot soccer must continue to enhance local community ownership, by holding community events and effectively training local role models to lead Skillz interventions.Grassroot Soccer must continue to adapt our curriculum based on feedback from youth and Coaches.

What would prevent your project from being a success?

2010 is a great time to launch a football based initiative. The worry is that partners will lose interest once the World Cup leaves South Africa.

Gender stereotypes present a major hurdle that must be overcome in this project. Young women face pressures that keep them from entering the program.

Lack of community engagement and commitment could prevent the program from becoming sustainable.

We are in the process of reviewing the data from the pilot programs. Failure to learn from the results could prevent the program from being a success.

Failure to develop and maintain strong partnership will also prevent the program from being a success.

How many people will your project serve annually?


What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

Less than $50

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy?


What stage is your project in?

Operating for less than a year

In what country?
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?


If yes, provide organization name.

Grassroot Soccer

How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with businesses?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

The AIDS epidemic requires a response from a committed group of partners with a diversity of expertise. What better way to unite these partners than through football – the most popular sport not only in Africa but across the globe.

Establishing and maintaining collaborative partnerships is at the heart of the Grassroot Soccer model. Grassroot Soccer has launched effective collaborations with more than 30 government agencies, corporations, NGOs, CBOs, and FBOs worldwide. As a direct result of these partnerships as well as flagship programs, GRS has provided comprehensive HIV prevention and life skills education to more than 300,000 young people throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

Local community engagement, proactive research, an online monitoring and evaluation database, and committed partners have allowed GRS to continually improve the effectiveness of our evidence based curriculum.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization?

Establish and maintain strong partnerships with local communities, national governments, and international corporations.

Secure and maintain safe spaces for young women to express themselves by participating in football and educational activities.

Train a team of Grassroot Soccer Skillz Street coaches who are committed to educating, empowering and inspiring an HIV-Free generation of powerful young women.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

Our soccer and education center was designed to address gaps in education and sport structures in Khayelitsha (Cape Town) South Africa. Our center was opened in late 2009. The center provides youth with access to soccer and educational services. We installed a state of the art soccer field and intentionally designed the space so it was open to the public. Community members contributed made important decisions on how the center would be used.

After 3 months the community had assumed responsibility for the field. Things moved slowly at first. Soccer attracted people, but nothing was well organized. Eventually though, the field was busy. Leagues were formed and a field booking process was instituted. We thought we had successfully created a community-driven space for youth to play soccer.

One afternoon, when the field was particularly busy, we noticed a group of four girls watching the matches on the field. These girls must have been between 10-14 years of age and sat quietly on the hillside watching the boys play. Then it struck us. The girls looked completely out of place. They were four girls watching a sea of boys and young men.

How could we have let our public soccer turn into a male-dominated space? The answer is simple. The situation is common. Public sport spaces intended for equal community participation almost always turn into a space where males, not females, play sport.

Moreover, not only was the field perceived by the community as a male- dominated space, but the entire community center was falling victim to this perception. This was the defining moment that inspired and motivated the development of Skillz Street.

Gender inequality is one of the key drivers of HIV in South Africa.
Entrenched gender roles limit what girls can do their whole lives. So necessity drove innovation. Our goal was to challenge a pervasive gender role – Girls shouldn’t play soccer - in an open public space. We wanted to challenge the community to look at the girls and our field in a different light.

Through Skillz Street, we created an innovative and distinct form of soccer that rewards growth and learning not performance. Through the power of this simple game, we are empowering young women as leaders in their communities.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

Chris Barkley has worked for GRS since 2005. He started with GRS as a volunteer and today plays an important role managing GRS South Africa programs. In addition to working in South Africa, Chris has worked in Botswana, Zambia, and Sudan.

These experiences shape the ideas behind Skillz Street in many ways.
Across Africa girls lack the opportunity to participate in soccer and Chris has worked on a wide range of initiatives that explore the power of soccer to create social change.

More specifically, Chris has worked with adolescent girls, parents, and community members in South Africa to better understand the barriers and challenges girls face to participate in soccer. If you ask him, he says his greatest insight is actually an obvious one, “Girls love to play soccer”. As a professional soccer play in Botswana, Chris experienced firsthand the power soccer has to bring people together in Africa.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Personal contact at Changemakers

If through another, please provide the name of the organization or company

50 words or fewer