Photo credit: FIFA.com
By Elena Ruzic
Women’s empowerment has become an essential and prominent topic in political, social, and economic spheres. Under the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, the world is keen on achieving progress towards gender equality. However, although improvements are happening every day, we’re still far from reaching success.
As I’ve been following the news, I found myself pleasantly surprised by the worldwide coverage of the Women’s World Cup 2019. I was quite intrigued by the topic and asked myself: why is there so much debate and buzz around women’s football, when it’s mostly known as a male-dominated sport?
After hours of researching, scrolling through articles, and gathering information, I learned that the Women’s World Cup can serve as a project for gender equality. Football, the most popular sport in the world, also probably contains one of the most prevalent stereotypes in sport and gender roles. We hear so often that football is a man’s game. Why can’t we change that rule now?
Sport is universal, with the power to transcend boundaries of sex, race, religion, and nationality. It promotes health, improves self-esteem, and teaches leadership skills, teamwork, and perseverance. Women’s presence in sport defies gender stereotypes, creates inspiring role models, and makes a case for equality. However, there is still a long way to go before full gender equality can be achieved in the world of sport. Regardless of culture and economy, women in sport face discrimination, sexism, and limited resources. Under-representation in the leadership of sports organizations, a lack of recognition of professional status, the glass ceiling, and substantial pay gaps are only some of the issues. In comparison with the total payout of $576 million for the last Men’s World Cup, the total payout for the Women’s World Cup was only $15 million.
That being said, the gender equality movement has positively affected sports. Women’s football has recently gained greater recognition and drawn record attendance. Credits must go to the United Nations and UNESCO for their contributions to inclusion in sports. UNESCO considers women’s football as powerful lever for the empowerment of women and girls, making our society more inclusive. Furthermore, influential voices have been heard from UEFA (The Union of European Football Associations), who launched the first ever women’s football strategy #TimeforAction to support, guide, and elevate both women’s football and the position of women in football across Europe.
Speaking as a Croatian, football is part of our national identity. Although we have a national women’s football team, it’s still perceived as a male sport. Personally, I think it’s time to take action and change the rules of the game. It’s a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable world. It is essential for an inclusive and diverse society. I’d love to see the Croatian women’s football team achieving the same level of success as our men’s team did in the 2018 World Cup in Russia.