Kick4Life is a second home - Thato
‘Kick4Life is a second home, not just to me, but to a lot of people, lives have been transformed through it over the years. I am a proud product of this organization because I get to positively impact a life each time I do my work’.
Thato ‘Cheeze’ Sentje, is team captain of Kick4Life Senior Women’s team, and she has recently joined the staff team full-time as a Girls United Project Assistant, but her journey with Kick4Life is a long one, beginning 14 years ago.
Hailing from Ha Thetsane, Thato first got involved at one of Kick4Life’s Test Your Team events back in October 2009, when she was a high school student. After participating with her teammates, Thato liked the environment, and she decided to stay and become a part of it. The following year, Thato along with a group of other youngsters, including Kick4Life’s Programmes Director, Puky Ramokoatsi, pioneered the Kick4Life Senior Women’s team, and they began playing in the Maseru District League
Alongside her football, over the coming years Thato participated in a number of different community programmes at Kick4Life, such as the Good Health & Wellbeing Curriculum, where she learned about nutrition, hygiene, HIV prevention and key steps for protection and promoting mental health. There was also a strong focus on transferable life-skills such as leadership, resilience and teamwork, and Thato remarks on how K4L has boosted her self-esteem as well as instilling in her a ‘quality of humanity’ which she carries with in on and off the pitch.
In 2019, Thato progressed to becoming a coach with Kick4Life’s Girls United project which is focused on empowering vulnerable girls and young women with knowledge and skills to safely challenge gender discrimination and to safely uphold their gender rights, as well as education on sexual and reproductive health. Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is a major issue in Lesotho, and the programme also engages boys and young men though mixed-gender tournament to challenge discrimination and to change attitudes. Thato says: “Girls United is very close to my heart and I am proud to be part of it. I wish to see beneficiaries of this programme speaking confidently against violence, and I wish to see them upholding their rights, having bright futures.”
Meanwhile the Kick4Life Women’s team had continued to progress, and in 2015 they became founding members of the Lesotho Women’s Super League, competing in the top flight ever since, and in 2021 managing to win the title and become national champions. The team has become a powerful vehicle for changing attitudes about the role of women in society, and has provided many girls and young women with the chance to safely enjoy sport. Thato, along with other senior players, also works closely with the Lesotho FA and other clubs to promote women’s football in the country more broadly.
2023 has been a great year for Thato so far, coming on board full-time with Kick4Life as a Project Assistant for Girls United as well as being appointed a Climate Action Activist as part of a project in partnership with Coaches Across Continents to raise awareness of issues related to gender and climate.
Kick4Life Programmes Director, Maphoka ‘Puky’ Ramokoatsi, says: “I am glad to have witnessed Thato’s personal growth over the years. She was sure to grab all opportunities that came her way, which led her to be where she is today. Having started off as a football player to being a life-skills coach, Thato portrayed leadership, passion and enthusiasm for Girls United, hence she holds the Assistant position today. It is amazing how much effect she makes for our participants, incorporating her own experiences to lead them into the right path. Cheeze is also a very good example and motivation to her younger teammates and I hope they learn a thing or two from her.”
Kick4Life’s Country Director, Motlatsi Nkhahle, adds: “Our mission is to ensure that every young Mosotho reaches their full potential, and we are pleased to see Thato on this journey. Looking at her transformation from footballer to curriculum participant to coach, all up to Girls United Assistant, she has really shown passion and commitment, and we are really proud of her.”