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March 28, 2019

“We need to ensure we are reaching out and engaging more women”: CONIFA puts focus on gender equality

Image credit: Khalida Popal

During its 2019 Annual General Meeting in Krakow, CONIFA announced a new gender equality policy, or “Commitment to Gender Equality” as it is officially called.

The policy, which can also be found here, reads:

“As an organisation, CONIFA is committed to the principles of gender equality. As such, CONIFA will adhere to the following principles:

  1. A Women’s World Football Cup is of equal importance to a Men’s World Football Cup. CONIFA thus commits itself to organise Women’s World Football Cups in all uneven years from 2019 onwards, with no exception.
  2. CONIFA will actively promote female representation on its board and will encourage women around the world to apply for posts on the ExCo level.
  3. CONIFA will distribute its resources equally between men’s and women’s football, spending not less than 40% of all development assistance funds on each gender, women and men.
  4. CONIFA commits to make all possible efforts to use male and female referees in all tournaments going forwards.
  5. CONIFA actively supports equal representation of genders on the bench and within Football Association roles and commits to assisting its members in including women in coaching and executive positions.”

CONIFA’s General Secretary Sascha Düerkop had this to say about the policy:

“Everyone at CONIFA is and always was fully convinced that football should be an equal playing field for everyone. Women and men should enjoy the same chances to grow through the beautiful game and should have exactly the same opportunities. Reviewing why women’s football in particular didn’t quite thrive within CONIFA, we could identify the limits in resources and funds: nearly all of our FAs, but also CONIFA itself, suffer from this as the main hindrance to equality.

“Most of our members did start with a men’s team and have much better-developed networks and know-how in men’s football. The limits we all face simply held most of the teams back to develop their women’s football programmes more, although many are doing a lot in that field already. Thus, the demand for women’s football tournaments was always there, but significantly lower than for men’s tournaments. Subsequently, CONIFA decided, year by year, to use the little resources we have to guarantee the continuation of the men’s tournaments instead,” Düerkop explains.

Düerkop and the Executive Committee of CONIFA wanted to do something about the lack of women’s football and he believes it has a huge potential within the organisation.

“After long debates on how we could ensure that our members and CONIFA itself could become a more active organiser in international women’s football, we concluded that we need to take the first step and provide the opportunity to grow to our members. We concluded that prioritising the continuation of men’s football, while sacrificing women’s football events due to the financial limits, was a mistake.

“Thus, we now fully commit to provide a platform for the Women’s World Football Cup as much as we are committed to stage the Men’s World Football Cup. We can’t allow another five years to pass by without providing such a platform. We expect our members to embrace this opportunity and we are fully convinced they will, as the demand is there. We are proud that we could implement such a significant and binding rule without a single objection and cannot wait to see the women’s game thriving within CONIFA.”

He is happy to see the activity already going on in women’s football and commends Sapmi and Northern Cyprus for hosting the first ever CONIFA women’s international match.

“Lastly, we want to emphasise that many of our members have been and still are very active in women’s football – and have regretted the absence of major tournaments. Sapmi and Northern Cyprus showed their ambition by staging a friendly match in Nicosia in 2018 and we cannot thank them enough for showing us what is possible for everyone in CONIFA!”

The gender equality rules and regulations are warmly welcomed by CONIFA’s Director of Women’s Football, Kelly Lindsey.

“CONIFA is special in this way, I felt from our very first conversation that the Executive Committee truly feels that the men’s and women’s departments are autonomous and equally valued,” she says.

“Although other organisations say the right thing, their structure does not promote the values they state. I believe CONIFA is different and I’m excited to work in an organisation that equally funds, values, and promotes the game. In my opinion, CONIFA’s new gender equality policy is true gender equality, and we need to make it happen.

“We need to ensure we are reaching out and engaging more women in the mission. I believe the difference between men and women, when it comes to these roles, is often men seek them out where as women appreciate being asked to join,” she continues.

“Women have a lot on their plates, so to give up more time to pursue another project requires value in the project they are pursuing. I am eager to bring women in who feel valued due to what they bring to the decision-making process. Women who know they have an autonomous voice to take action and execute their ideas.”

CONIFA’s Director of Member Development, Paul Watson, says he sees this as a serious statement from CONIFA:

“I’m really proud of CONIFA’s commitment to gender equality – it’s a statement that we’re serious about giving women’s and men’s football equal respect and attention and we intend to be held to that. “The potential for women’s football to grow in the CONIFA family is enormous and I’m looking forward to seeing what can be achieved.”

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By Robin Toal

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