#FootballPeople weeks’ gender equality focus to culminate tonight30 October 2018

Theneedtoincreasethenumberofopportunitiesforwomentobeapartoffootballandusesportasamethodologyforinclusionhaveonceagainbeenaprimefocusofthisyear’s#FootballPeopleweeks.

Events focused on gender equality in football have taken place all over Europe during the #FootballPeople weeks, and will culminate with an event in London to celebrate Emma Clarke, Britain’s first leading black female footballer, who was a prominent figure in football as far back as the 1890s.

Grassroots organisations, NGOs and professional clubs have all come together to support the women’s game during the #FootballPeople weeks. Clubs like Olympique Lyonnais and Bayern Munich Women were among those to show their support, while at grassroots level there have been over 100 activities with this goal in mind.

Junge Musliminnen Österreich
For one example, take Austria. Asma Aiad set up Junge Musliminnen Österreich in 2005 with the goal to achieve equality for Muslim women in and around the world of sport.

The organisation offers women and girls who have previously been discriminated against or forced to sacrifice physical activity over religious beliefs a safe space to participate in a variety of sports, without fear of persecution from outsiders.

During the #FootballPeople weeks they launched a Stay Fit programme, organising a number of sports sessions for Muslim women, including football, boxing, swimming and dancing, as well as a football tournament and discussion about sport and health.

“JMÖ stands for a society in which gender equality is lived out and in which all people, regardless of their gender, origin or religion, naturally have the same opportunities,” says Aiad.

“Austria’s Muslim women are often affected by several forms of discrimination and unequal treatment because of their gender, their faith and their origin. We want to counteract this injustice with our work. That is why we founded the JMÖ 13 years ago.

“We wanted to have a space where we can empower Muslim women, a space for us to create new things. Therefore our programme is very diverse. We offer sport activities, educational and spiritual.”

In Germany groups like Champions ohne Grenzen and Zebras stehen auf have hosted events focused on gender equality. Other examples could be seen in Turkey, Serbia, Poland and Bosnia and Herzegovina, where several groups have been fighting for equality.

The #FootballPeople weeks are Europe’s largest campaign for social justice in sport, and over 2,000 events have taken place during the period October 11-25th in 60+ countries. One of the final major events in this year’s calendar takes place in London tonight, where the focus will be on Emma Clarke.

Emma Clarke, women’s football pioneer
An event organised by Michelle Moore and Anna Kessel and funded by the Fare network will be held to celebrate the life of Emma Clarke, a pioneer for ethnic minority women in football. An exciting panel of cultural commentators will explore Emma’s story and what can be learned going forward for women in football today, particularly women from ethnic minorities.

Emma Clarke was born in Liverpool in 1876. A confectioner’s apprentice, she likely grew up playing football on the streets of Bootle. Aged just 19, Emma made her professional debut for the British Ladies team in 1895, in London’s Crouch End, in front of a crowd of 11,000 in a match covered by the mainstream media. Emma also had two sisters, and it is believed that they joined her on Mrs Graham’s XI tour of Scotland the following year.

“Women have made great strides in the game, but there continue to be very few women in senior leadership positions, coaching and backroom staff,” said Anna Kessel MBE, a sports journalist, author and the co-founder of Women in Football (WiF), an organisation lobbying against sexism in the game.

“Disappointingly, there is no census of women in the game so we don’t have data on how many women are working in football, or how many of those women are BAME, LGBT or have disabilities.”

“The 50 year ban on women being part of our national game, and consequent hostility that lingers in football culture today, has left an enormous vacuum in football. To close the equality gap we have much work to do – from supporting women in developing careers in the game to protecting them from discrimination and abuse.

“We also need a cultural shift. We still routinely hear the question, “Can a woman…?” We still doubt a woman’s capabilities to perform key roles in the game.”

“Our event celebrating Emma Clarke is therefore hugely important. It has generated a great amount of interest and discussion about the representation of black women in football, and the contributions of women to our national game. The Football People weeks enable the visibility of women’s achievements which are otherwise too often overlooked.”

Olympique Lyon star Wendie Renard threw her support behind the #FootballPeople weeks: “Very proud to support Fare’s commitment to social inclusion and diversity.”

The importance of social inclusion for women in sport is fundamental in helping improve gender quality in Europe today.

As an example, the EU strategy for equality between men and women (2010-2015), has a specific focus on access to sport for immigrant women and women from ethnic minorities. As part of the effort to fight gender stereotypes and promote women’s access to decision making roles in sport, the Commission is seeking to ensure that 30% of sport decision-making roles are held by women by 2020.