Elisabeth Kvartiet is 17 years old and has lived her entire life in Kakuma refugee camp, located in the desolate Turkana region of northwest Kenya. Elisabeth’s family is from South Sudan. Her father was killed in the conflict in 1999 and her mother, pregnant with Elisabeth, waited until she gave birth and then fled with her four children to Kenya.
They have lived here ever since. Elisabeth mother remarried and had four more children, but when her stepfather returned to South Sudan after independence, he too was killed. Elisabeth dreams of continuing her education and eventually becoming a doctor. Her favourite subject is biology and she is a keen student, now in the second level of high school.
The frustration for many young refugees at Kakuma camp is that formal education ends at the fourth level, and only those who can afford to attend school outside the camp have the chance to go on.
When she’s not studying or helping with the family, Elisabeth is on the football pitch. She started playing at an early age when a teacher in the camp saw that the girls had serious interest for the game. At first the girls were told that only boys could play football. However, the girls were determined and crafted their own footballs out of paper and plastic bags. Impressed by their perseverance and talent, one of the teachers began to coach them.
Elisabeth became the captain of the team – a reward for her dedication and skill. At a recent regional football championship, Elisabeth and other top female footballers from Kakuma competed with Kenyan teams. Their team came second.
As much as she loves football, Elisabeth says her priority will always be school.
“If I am successful at school, I can become a minister or a president, but if I only play football, that’s all I can do,” she says. Elisabeth has bigger plans.
Written by Leigh Foster
Video by Nicholas Hopkins Hal
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