Zanzibar Community Impact Study

This audio-visual study and the accompanying website were carried out in collaboration with Florence Ayisi, University of South Wales. It maps the community impact of the documentary Zanzibar Soccer Queens (Florence Ayisi, 2007), a film about the personal stories and football activities of Women Fighters, a predominantly Muslim women’s team in Zanzibar.

In 2009, the players of Women Fighters’ team were invited to Potsdam, Germany, as a result of numerous screenings of Zanzibar Soccer Queens at international film festivals. Their involvement with soccer has truly taken them beyond the borders of their country, and away from the confines of traditional roles of the Muslim woman. Their journey to Germany is also influencing attitudes about woman in general and women’s soccer in particular. In this predominantly Muslim society, some sections of the community still frown upon women exposing parts of their bodies.

Their visit to Germany created a buzz in Zanzibar. More importantly, their visit has had a positive impact on many levels: it has exposed the players to the wider society and redefined their status; the government has recognised the value of what the women do; the players were seen as cultural and soccer ‘ambassadors’ of their country, and people treated the women differently; the opinions of some parents and general societal attitudes towards women’s soccer are changing; young girls now have equal opportunities and access to soccer training as part of their physical education in schools as a result of a new government policy; many young girls have since joined the Women Fighters’ team.

Also, since their return from Germany, the status and identities of the players have changed – the once marginalised soccer ‘hooligans’ are now visible, giving the women much-needed self-esteem and confidence, as well as sense of unity and solidarity that enhances nearly every aspect of their lives.

This impact study (and the accompanying feature film Zanzibar Soccer Dreams) highlights the transformation taking place in the playing fields of Zanzibar, where the benefits of soccer as a uniting force and a development tool are evident. Today, young girls have equal opportunities to play soccer in schools. Women’s Soccer has truly gone mainstream, and is becoming part of popular culture and imagination. It is also a dream come true for the sportswoman who founded the first female soccer team, Women Fighters Team.