Fatuma Adan: A 'living example' of the transformative power of sports

By Flavie Halais 24 August 2015

Fatuma Adan, executive director of Horn of Africa Development Initiative. Photo by: Violaine Martin / UN Geneva / CC BY-NC-ND

Fatuma Adan won’t take no for an answer.

“I’m supposed to be locked up, married. I should be a grandmother now,” she told an audience of development workers at a conference held in June in Ottawa, Canada. Instead, Adan has unexpectedly managed to defy cultural norms and expectations, forging her own destiny and becoming a trailblazer for women’s and girls’ rights in her community.

Adan hails from Marsabit, a small town in northern Kenya — Adan calls the area “Kenya 2” which, according to her, “starts where the tarmac ends.” In Kenya 2, girls rarely finish high school. Early marriage and pregnancy, female genital mutilation and domestic violence are just some of the many issues faced by girls and women in this remote and underserved part of the country.

As an adolescent, Adan was startled to see her schoolmates drop out one after the other. She wanted to help, but wasn’t sure how, and quite naturally thought of pursuing higher education first, brushing off the fact that Marsabit didn’t count a single college-educated woman among its population. She fought her way through law school, having to drop out for a year when she couldn’t pay for tuition, and eventually came home armed with her degree.

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About the author

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Flavie Halaisflaviehalais

Flavie Halais is a freelance journalist based in Montreal who covers cities and international social issues. In 2013-2014, Flavie was an Aga Khan Foundation Canada International Fellow, reporting for Nation Media Group in Nairobi, Kenya. She’s also reported from Rwanda, Brazil and Colombia.

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