Pioneer programme to increase female participation in Brazilian football21 August 2014


The programme Futebol e Mulheres (Football and Women), developed to promote female empowerment through the game and celebrate the contribution of women to the sport, aims to build on 2014 World Cup legacy in Brazil, fostering the growth of women’s football.

Initiatives include: exhibitions highlighting the issues around gender and racial discrimination in football; a women’s football championship promoting an interchange between female players and referees of the different regions of the Rio Grande do Sul state; a female referee and administrative course focusing on women’s empowerment; and a state level forum on management and ethics in women’s football.

Throughout the project, constituted of female participants already engaged and working in football, the participants will be encouraged to think critically and develop solutions for the limitations and barriers that women across all levels of the game face in the country.

A review of the programme and a video will be launched in November evaluating and highlighting its outcomes and achievements.

Fostering gender equality
The initiative, founded by the Brazilian Secretary of Sport and Leisure along with women associations and Rio Grande do Sul’s women’s football governing body, is one of the several actions that since the World Cup spread out across Brazil fostering gender equality in and through the game.

In the county home to FIFA’s five-times woman player of the year, Marta Vieira da Silva, women still face a fight to play the game and female football is often overshadowed by the men’s game.

Earlier in May 2014, at the end of the Brasileirão Série A match between Atlético-MG and Cruzeiro, Alexandre Mattos, Cruzeiro director of football, made sexist comments targeting the game’s female assistant referee Fernanda Colombo Uliana.

The incident happened at the Uliana’s debut as an assistant referee in Brazil’s top flight, after the 23 year old  denied visitors Cruzeiro a last-gasp chance to equalise against derby rivals Atlético with a debatable offside call.

“It was an unnecessary comment. My decision was judged based on the fact that I am a female referee.” said Uiliana on the incident.

I had never experienced sexism like this before. Unfortunately, football is still a sport in which prejudice is very present”.

During the World Cup, Rio Grande do Sul state government’s secretary for women developed a campaign, constituted of a help line, informative resources and outdoors, to raise awareness of gender-based violence and discrimination in and outside stadiums.

International organisations, including the Fare member Discover Football, partnered-up with Brazilian groups and used the publicity and heightened public interest in the tournament to tackle difficult social issues, including female empowerment.

“We developed the campaign as we felt the need to bring attention to women’s football when the whole world is focusing on the men’s tournament.” said Lea Gölnitz, a representative of Discover Football.