Grassroot Soccer Announces Unique Program at Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting to Provide South African Girls with Life-Saving HIV-Prevention Through Sports

— Co-Founder Ethan Zohn Unveils how the Power of Soccer will help Educate and Test 12,500 At-Risk Girls by 2014 —

CGI SealNEW YORK CITY (September 21, 2011) Grassroot Soccer co-founder Ethan Zohn announced the expansion of an unprecedented program called “Skillz Street” to provide girls in South Africa with the unique opportunity to play in a newly formed girls-only soccer league.  In addition to the empowerment inherent in playing organized sport, all participating girls will gain valuable life skills and life-saving HIV prevention education.  The announcement was made in conjunction with a Special Session entitled “Sports as a Tool for Social Good” at the 2011 Clinton Global Initiative in New York City.

“Through this commitment to action, Grassroot Soccer will address gender inequality and the lack of empowerment of young women, two key components of the AIDS epidemic in Southern Africa,” said Ethan Zohn, co-founder of Grassroot Soccer, who is also known as the winner of the CBS show Survivor: Africa and co-host of the ABC show Everyday Health. “Using soccer as the vehicle for girls’ empowerment, our Skillz Street program can dramatically alter the gender landscape and mobilize whole communities to live more healthy, productive lives.”

Of the 1 million registered soccer players in South Africa, only 1 percent are girls.  For most girls in the Skillz Street program, this will literally be their first chance to play an organized sport.  This pioneering girls-only soccer league is a first step in helping to reverse entrenched gender roles, and to provide South African girls with opportunities to become leaders on and off the field.  “Skillz Street can impact South Africa in the way that Title IX transformed the landscape for girls in the U.S.,” commented Zohn.

Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director, recently visited a Skillz Street program in South Africa and commented, “Grassroot Soccer is restoring dignity and building self-esteem of young girls living in a challenging environment, transforming them into actors for the HIV prevention revolution.”

Grassroot Soccer is an international nonprofit that uses the power of soccer to prevent the spread of AIDS and save lives among those with the highest rates of new infections—youth in Africa. Young African women aged 15-24 are up to eight times more likely than young men to have HIV.  In response to the unique risk factors that young women face, and the potential that a sport-based approach has to address them, Grassroot Soccer created the Skillz Street program that is designed to keep young women HIV-free.  This innovative initiative creates a safe space for girls to play non-competitive soccer, take action in their communities, and access vital conversations about HIV and AIDS.  The program also includes an HIV testing component, a critical piece in fighting the disease.

“By the next World Cup in 2014, Grassroot Soccer will have educated 1 million young people about AIDS and inspired them to live healthier, more productive lives, strengthening communities across Africa,” added Zohn.


About Grassroot Soccer:
Grassroot Soccer (GRS) is a non-profit organization founded in 2002 that uses the power of soccer to educate, inspire, and empower communities to stop the spread of HIV.  The vision of GRS is a world mobilized through soccer to create an AIDS-free generation. GRS has programs in 10 African countries with flagship sites in South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Founded by four professional soccer players, Grassroot Soccer is mobilizing the most vulnerable population of youth ages 12 – 19, to break the cycle of AIDS by engaging local coaches who equip young people with the knowledge, skills and support they need to avoid HIV.  For more information visit

About the Clinton Global Initiative
Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) convenes global leaders to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges. Since 2005, CGI Annual Meetings have brought together nearly 150 current and former heads of state, 18 Nobel Prize laureates, hundreds of leading CEOs, heads of foundations, major philanthropists, directors of the most effective nongovernmental organizations, and prominent members of the media. These CGI members have made nearly 2,000 commitments, which have already improved the lives of 300 million people in more than 180 countries. When fully funded and implemented, these commitments will be valued in excess of $63 billion. The 2011 Annual Meeting will take place Sept. 20-22 in New York City.

This year, CGI also convened CGI America, a meeting focused on developing ideas for driving economic growth in the United States. The CGI community also includes CGI U, which hosts an annual meeting for undergraduate and graduate students, and CGI Lead, which engages a select group of young CGI members for leadership development and collective commitment-making. For more information, visit


Media Contact:

Molly McHugh
Grassroot Soccer