Empowering has been fronted as one of the sure ways to elevate women in society. Jean Sseninde, a Uganda Crested Cranes professional footballer based in England, has taken on the mantle with sport as a platform.
“I want to create women leaders and to empower the women and youth in communities through education, sports and skills training,” she says.
Sseninde is not your average Ugandan girl. Her path of life would pass for a glossy one. She was born in Kampala to Kizza and Rosemary Sseninde. The footballer’s mother has been woman representative for Wakiso District since 2006 and the honours propagated when she was appointed the State Minister for Primary Education in 2016. The 25-year-old Sseninde has definitely not struggled for basics in life, if you are to go by her family’s financial status. She thus see her priviledged position as an opportunity to change the lives of girls who have not been as lucky.
An alumni of Gayaza High School and St Mary`s College Kitende, she picked up the love for the beautiful game at a tender age because of her brothers.
“Way back at home, I always wanted to play football with my brothers and when the headmistress at Gayaza High School introduced women soccer, I was among the first to show interest,” she recalls.
The game has taken her places, playing for celebrated sides like London Phoenix Ladies FC, Charlton Athletic Queens Park Rangers and currently Crystal Palace. She now wants to inspire more girls to follow her footsteps.
The centre back is the managing director of a project called the Jean Sseninde Foundation which was founded with the help of her mother in 2006 and registered as a Non-Government Organisation, with its main goal to empower women and the girl-child, through providing life and technical skills, knowledge dissemination, sport and sensitisation.
She last year started a new projected themed ‘Finding you’ in form of the Jean Sseninde Women Development Tournament.
“I wanted to put in place a tournament that allows all women regardless of age or background, who have the passion and desire to play football but for one reason or the other, don’t get opportunity to play,” she says.
The tournament was a success as more than 100 girls from all over the country partook of it, giving a ray of hope to the upcoming female talent in a country where women’s football had been left to wilt due to various challenges. That women can’t achieve a lot in football is the fallacy Sseninde is out to stifle.
“My dream is to be of purpose to the world I would love to see so many women and men overcome adversity and continue to believe that together we can do what has not been done before,” she says.
The foundation has also produced more than 600 graduates the last two years in non-formal skills training aimed at addressing the skills gap in the community and provide start-up knowledge for employment.
While everything might give the impression that all is falling in place, the warm-hearted Sseninde faces a catalogue of hurdles in her race to give back to the community. To her, the biggest one is that she does not have what it takes to touch every life.
“My biggest problem is time. I have limited time to reach out to everyone due to my schedule and at times I see so many messages of people inviting me to go visit their communities, which I would love to but in actual sense, I can’t go everywhere,” she opens up.
One of her prayers is to be able to create more time to impact on more communities. “I’m trying every day that hopefully, I can reach out to more groups in the future,” adds the Ugandan international.
Her noble cause has not gone unnoticed as she was recently invited as a speaker at a FIFA, the world’s football governing body, conference for equality and inclusion in Zurich, Switzerland, earlier this month alongside legends such as retired Malian professional footballer Frederic Kanoute and former player-turned Club Eastern Chan assistant coach Yuen Ting.
On receiving the news of her invitation, a vocal Sseninde could not wait to grace the podium.
“I am humbled to have the opportunity to speak at the FIFA conference among other great people in society. For me, this was to inspire so many girls and women in Uganda and around the world to know that anything is possible,” she says.
At the symposium which was also decorated by the presence of FIFA president Gianni Infantino, the Crystal Palace defender reminded the world how big a role football can play in making the world a better place for every individual.
“I believe football is more than just a game. It is a way for all of us to express ourselves,” she said in her opening remarks before calling on everyone to stand up and act in her closing statement.
“Anything that changes the world begins with us as individuals. Football has a unique power, because it’s the game that we all love. Football has a unique ability to bring us all together. And together we can ensure that no single girl, no single person in the world, has any restrictions to overcome. Together we can change the world.”
Sseninde wants her foundation to influence lives not only in Uganda, but globally and give back as much as she can, inspire and have fun at the same time.
Tomorrow read about Winfred Adukule who is using the law to create an impact
Word from mentor.
“Her foundation is doing many things even away from sports. She’s giving the hopeless girls hope that they can get to where they want to be if they put in effort. She is giving young girls reason to dream when they see the levels she’s playing at. She’s the perfect role model.” Majidah Nantanda, Former Crested Cranes national coach