7 MARCH 2018

Fati’s Goal – Ghana Girls, is a documentary made by a student at Right to Dream, the first residential, elite football and educational academy in Africa to run a girl’s programme. Fati Salifu, one of the girls at the academy and is passionate about gender equality. She tells her story for Fawcett's #OurTimeNow series looking at women rights around the world.

Hi, I am Fati Salifu. I am fifteen years old. I am from the Northern Region of Ghana, born in a village where everything is scarce including a means of transport for children to get to school or women in labour to be rushed to hospital. All the people I know, where born at home, without doctors to help. Things are very different. Few cars, few flushing toilets, no hospitals for hundreds of miles. The village where I come from is made mainly of mud – little round mud huts make up compounds that each family inhabit. They are neat and pretty, with bright yellow grass roofs that shine in the scorching sun. The land is flat and the earth is red. The temperature reaches 45 degrees Centigrade easily so the shade of the mango and cashew nut trees is precious. To visit my home town of Garu, you would have to drive 17 hours on one straight road from Ghana’s capital city, Accra.

Fifteen years ago, I was brought into the world by my mother who was gifted with four beautiful girls. I happened to be the first born. But society made my mother feel inferior because she had daughters, not sons. To lessen her burden, she gave me up to my Aunty. My dear Aunty fed and clothed me and made me go to school. She installed strong morals into my very bones. I was lucky. I was sent to school but in return, I helped at my Auntie’s shop. My Auntie’s shop is a container at the side of the road, selling cooking utensils, cloth, petrol and sandals and other bits and bobs. I sat there by the side of the road, trying to be a good girl for my Aunty.

If I had stayed there, I would have had no real shot at anything. I wasn’t aware of this, of the rest of the world, except for what I had seen on the TV I passed by on the way home. And the only thing on TV was football. I don’t know whether you know this, but in Ghana, everyone loves football. Even in the dusty little mud hut villages, hundreds of kilometres from anywhere, if there is electricity, there is a communal TV on with football. I am just the same. And it turned out, I was good at football. So, I played all the time, whenever I could, with whatever I could. Tin cans, bottles, stones, tennis balls, they were precious things, those tennis balls. And then one day I started playing for a team, just a local team but with a real football which was locked up immediately after practice for safe keeping. About this time, my Aunty was starting to put pressure on me to stop spending time playing football and start helping her more at her shop.

One day, my football coach told me about a football trial. A trial for some well-known football academy. Of course, I wanted to try-out, but my Aunty said no. I was to stay at the shop. Luckily, the day of the trial, my coach paid a visit to my Aunty. Somehow, by God’s grace, I don’t know how, he persuaded her to let me go to the trial.
That trial changed my life.

Luck was on my side again, because there was so much talent, I couldn’t even count. But somehow, I got selected and became part of a very special academy called Right to Dream. At the time, I didn’t know just how lucky I was – that every year, the Right to Dream football scouts screen 20,000 children throughout West Africa, and they only pick a handful. I was in that lucky, precious, life-changing handful. Especially, as it was the second year that Right to Dream was taking girls. So, when you think about the odds, and that little container shop where I was supposed to be that day (and for the rest of my life), well, it gives me the shivers.

Right to Dream has given me a quality education, elite football training and the access to play on nation-famous grass pitches, admired by everyone. There are three ‘pillars’ at Right to Dream – football, education and character. The character part is important. I strongly believe that.

I’ve heard that apparently, talent is evenly distributed across the world. So then if you think about it, those children that don’t finish school, those girls that sit in container shops or trade with goods in their silver head pans, and have babies early - they will never be counted. There is talent. But it is wasted. They work in the fields with their babies on their backs, and pound banku. And I like banku, but I don’t want to make it. I want to graduate from an Ivy League University. And that means I need to get a good education.

If 62 million girls are out of education, I know a lot of them. I was supposed to be one of them. So, I need to do well so people listen to me, because then I can be their voice. I can be the voice, so we are heard.

So, I have started to raise my voice with the help of Right to Dream, by making a documentary about my mission to gain hope and determination from women across Ghana.

I travelled over two thousand kilometers across the country. You see, five older Right to Dream girls, are now studying in America. They are doing well at prestigious schools, getting a world class education. The future fate of a lot of voiceless girls, is in their hands so I wanted to keep them motivated. So, I travelled to their homes to invite their mothers, only one of which went to school, to record video messages of love and support. Because, if they stay motivated, they will do better. And they must do well. They must overcome all the challenges, so they can change the world for girls.

In September, it will be me leaving Ghana, continuing my journey, continuing my education on scholarship in America. Before then, in May, I will travel to Michigan, as part of the Right to Dream robotics team, made up of four boys and me, to represent Ghana in the international robotics championships. Who would have thought, a football-playing African girl, would be competing in a world robotics competition? No pressure!

Football is not actively encouraged amongst girls in West Africa. By the time a girl reaches 12, she is often expected to concentrate on her role within the family, looking after siblings and contributing to the running of the household.

Established in 2013, Right to Dream's Girls’ Programme challenges traditional gender roles and creates opportunities for talented young women to fulfil their potential and become the next generation of African role models. Fully integrated within the Right to Dream impact model, we offer quality and transformative football, education, mentorship and international exposure.