Sports for Development in Kenya

The role of sports for development in Kenya today is minimal and under-utilized. Every other day, people use sports not only for competition but also for mobilization and entertainment. However, sports is a complex science with more benefits than just financial and physical fitness. Sports has the power to transform societies in ways never imagined before.

Kenya is yet to fully exploit the potential of sports and play to transform the society into a better place. Growing up, most parents emphasized the importance of education to their children because it was “the only key to success.” Sadly, the society denied its children and youth the chance of enjoying and exploiting their talents in sports. Today, this narrative is changing thanks to the limelight shown on European football and other international sports. Kenya’s success in athletics also contributes to this change in perception. Slowly, the society is embracing sports as one of the keys to success. Within the last decade alone, there has been a considerable rise in the number of sports-related programs both from the government and private sector. We have also seen a good number of parents supporting their children within the various sports disciplines and through sports academies.

The Common Dream for Parents and Children

During a recent visit to South Nyanza, I interacted with a young boy, probably in his early teen years. He quickly steered our conversation to football, detailing his dreams to play football, earn, and build his mother a house. I challenged him about the possibilities of achieving his dreams having in mind ours is not a country known for its football prowess. The young boy’s clarity and conviction came out strong that nothing will stand between him and his dreams. His mother, a single parent, also believes that her son has more chances in sports than any other sector. On probing further, I realized that the current state of corruption and employment in the country made her support her son’s ambitions.

Internationally, governments and non-profit organizations are designing sports programs that go beyond money, mobilization, fun, and fitness. Countries like the Netherlands and Germany long realized the evidence that sports and play builds one’s ability to lead better lives and become accountable for their actions. Locally, several non-profit organizations are also implementing such programs especially with the vulnerable and most-at-risk populations in slums and rural areas.  This approach is Sports for Development or Value-Based Sports. In the coming posts, this platform will cover the experiences of Ben Ooko, and two other Kenyans who have dedicated their lives to support Value-based Sports.

Value-Based Sports

Since 2014, I have taken part in several activities revolving around Sports for Development. These activities include Sports for Peace, Football 3, Football for Hygiene, Football for Agribusiness, sports for Women empowerment and others. At first, one may not really understand how sport and activities like agribusiness relate, but seeing it done practically makes sense.

These sports for development sessions have a variety of designs. Commonly, these designs tend to have activity, reflection, connection, and application sessions. Activity session is the actual modified version of the game. The reflection session involves looking back at the skills learned during the game. During the connection session, learners connect the skills on the field to real life skills. Finally, learners apply those skills to real life cases during the application session.

These programs, if designed and applied well, teach life skills that are essential in overcoming poverty, building peaceful societies, promoting social equality, promote practical thinking, and promoting behavior change.

In the coming weeks, Twajivunia will be covering three exceptional heroes using sports to transform their communities into inclusive safe spaces for everybody. The three case studies will clearly give the evidence on the role of sports and play in making communities safer, promoting behavior change, and encouraging academic performance. Through sports, these individuals and their organizations have moulded community leaders, provided opportunities for girls, and resolved conflicts.

The 1989 UN Convention on the Right of the Child, Article 31, notes that all children have a right to play, leisure, and participation in artistic and cultural activities.

Sports for Development and Children


At their tender age, children use play to explore and create. By playing with their peers, children develop vital social skills and confidence. Play attracts children naturally, therefore, should be right and not a privilege. Play also help children to express their emotions, therefore, denying them the chance robs them of the ability to have a holistic growth. Other benefits of play to children include physical development, social development, cognitive development, better health, and preventing diseases among others.

The right to play is protected in Article 31 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child

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