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‘Zanzibar Soccer Queens’ and its Impact on Civil Society and Cultural Life in Africa and Europe

University of South Wales leads research in collaboration with Cardiff Metropolitan University and the University of Wales Trinity Saint David

A documentary film on the lives of an all-female Muslim football team in Zanzibar has helped to improve respect and understanding, encouraged more women to get involved in sport and has been used to tackle racism in football and raise awareness of HIV and AIDS.

The research by F. Ayisi used ‘first person’ documentary film practices and focused on members of the ‘Women Fighters’ football team, raising important questions about the role and status of Muslim women in Africa.

The resulting impact film, Zanzibar Soccer Queens by F. Ayisi and C. Brylla, shows societal acceptance of women’s football and the team has gone from being marginalised as ‘soccer hooligans’ to becoming valued ambassadors for Zanzibar.

“Now when a woman plays football her parents are happy.  They want girls to play football.  We have come far and we are now moving on to another era.” Khatima, player, Women Fighters.

The film has since been shown in numerous film festivals across Europe, Africa, North America and Asia, and led to an increase in the numbers of women and girls in Zanzibar wanting to play football, even prompting a change of policy by the Zanzibar Government to allow Muslim girls to play football in schools as part of sports education.

As a result of screening Zanzibar Soccer Queens in 2008 at a film festival in Potsdam, Germany, the players of Women Fighters’ were invited to Germany by a non-governmental organisation – RAA Brandenburg, Benzstr. 

All participants agreed that the film has improved their understanding for the situation in Zanzibar, and it is not only a document of women‘s football, but it shows the everyday and depicts how women have to fight for their rights to play football, and that women are not weak victims, but active creators of their lives and social environment. Discussions were sparked by the respect for the women’s engagement, their fight, their courage and their optimism.” Birgit Mitawi, Co-ordinator for RAA Brandenburg, Benzstr

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