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UNICEF celebrates "Global Girls Football Day"

UNICEF and FIFA join with children to celebrate "Global Girls Football Day"

NEW YORK, 8 October 2003 – As excitement builds to a fever pitch in the last week of the FIFA Women’s World Cup USA 2003, children around the world will be celebrating Global Girls Football Day, jointly designated as 11 October by UNICEF and FIFA.

Global Girls Football Day, taking place one day before the Women’s World Cup championship match in Los Angeles, marks UNICEF and FIFA’s efforts to open up new avenues for girls in the developing world.

UNICEF and FIFA have teamed up again this year, this time to highlight two crucial areas of child development that are often absent or overlooked for girls because of poverty and discrimination: the right to play and the right to education.

The FIFA Women’s World Cup USA 2003 is dedicated to Go Girls! Education for Every Child, UNICEF’s global initiative to get more girls into school.

“For millions of girls, certain basic rights are seen as a privilege or luxury,” said UNICEF’s Executive Director Carol Bellamy. “UNICEF and FIFA believe that girls should have equal opportunities to make a better life for themselves through an education and by playing and participating in sports.”

FIFA President, Joseph S. Blatter said that the number of girls who are excluded from school is an “alarming indication that girls today are entering a future without hope and without options. Girls, families and entire communities pay the price for that loss.”

Educating girls empowers them to grow to their full potential and to fully develop self-confidence and social skills. Educated girls and women are more likely to protect themselves against HIV/AIDS and other diseases, to have safer pregnancies and healthier children, and to send their own children to school.

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Girls and Sports

UNICEF believes that access to and participation in sports is a critical part of any child’s physical, mental and social development. But often girls are the ones denied the benefits of sports and recreation because they are kept off the playing field.

“Participation in sports activities has the power to build confidence and self-esteem for girls who have relatively few opportunities,” said Bellamy. She added that girls who play sports help to break the stereotype of being “weaker” than boys.

Blatter said that every child has the right to an education and that “we have not only the responsibility of helping them have access to it, but also a great opportunity to use football as an integrating, educational tool. By helping girls achieve an education, we are helping the mothers of tomorrow and therefore, our society as a whole.”

He also added that “there are over 20 million women footballers around the world, 80% of whom are juniors or still in their teens, which demonstrates the growing popularity for women's football, and the educational potential this sport has.

Bellamy and Blatter will mark Global Girls Football Day at a panel discussion in Los Angeles, where leaders in the world of sports and education will explore the value of sports in child development and the role that football can play to help girls realize their right to an education. UNICEF and FIFA will confirm their joint commitment to use football to expand opportunities for children and particularly for girls who are denied an education.

FIFA’s Role

In several countries where UNICEF is helping to boost low school enrolment rates for girls, FIFA is making it possible for children to enjoy their right to play on Global Girls Football Day.

Using a $150,000 donation from FIFA, UNICEF has delivered over 600 “Sport-in-a-Box kits” to twelve countries. The kits, which include basic sports equipment and how-to guides on playing football, are being used in projects that encourage girls to attend school and to play football.

In an ongoing partnership for the last several years, FIFA has used its major tournaments to promote football as a vehicle for the fulfilment of children’s rights. Beyond sports events, UNICEF and FIFA are expanding this powerful alliance to partnerships and programmes at the national level that address the health, education and protection of children and adolescents. * * * * Event Details: Global Girls Football Day Panel Discussion, Saturday 11 October

9:30 – 11:30 a.m. at the Westin Long Beach Hotel in Los Angeles, CA

Participants include Carol Bellamy and Sepp Blatter; Reiko Niimi, head of UNICEF Brazil; Mary Harvey, Director of Development Division at FIFA; Christophe Forax of the European Commission on Education and Culture; former Olympian athlete Shiny Wilson from India and Doreen Greenberg of the Women’s Sports Foundation.

Photo opportunity at 11:00 a.m. – Bellamy and Blatter signing the Los Angeles Declaration of Commitment.

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