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Press release

FIFA 2003 Women's World Cup to champion girls' education

NEW YORK, 19 September 2003 - UNICEF today hailed the start of the FIFA 2003 Women's World Cup, this year dedicated to Go Girls! Education for Every Child, UNICEF's campaign to rally support and resources to get more girls into school.

Sixteen teams from across the world are vying in the tournament, which kicks off tomorrow and culminates in Los Angeles on 12 October.

“Many of the women who are competing in the World Cup have beaten the odds to get here,” said Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF. “Millions of young girls are left on the sidelines, growing up in environments that do not acknowledge, encourage or facilitate their basic right to play. They lose more than the simple joy of having fun in their childhood, they lose valuable life skills that playing sports can bring to a child's life.”

UNICEF believes that access to and participation in sports is a critical part of any child's physical, mental and social development. Children who play sports regularly are exposed to teamwork and healthy lifestyles. In countries where children may have few opportunities to learn and to escape the perils of conflict, sports can be an informal school and a safe haven.

Across the developing world, girls traditionally have less access to school and sports. Often the same girls who are kept off the playing field are those kept out of the classroom. Girls make up the majority of the more than 120 million children excluded from education throughout the world, a fact that adversely affects all children.

“The Women’s World Cup is an important time for UNICEF to raise awareness of the fact that millions of girls are still being limited and marginalized,” said Bellamy. “We are happy that FIFA is helping us to send the message that education is one part of their young lives that these girls cannot afford to miss.”

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.

UNICEF has spearheaded two global campaigns to get more girls into school. The "25 by 2005" campaign is an intensive effort to get as many girls as boys into school in 25 countries by the year 2005.

In the Go Girls! Education for Every Child campaign UNICEF has partnered with Fox Kids and FIFA to use sport events as a platform to promote girls’ education. 

UNICEF and FIFA have been teaming up since 2001, when they formed an alliance to promote children's rights through football. The 2002 World Cup was dedicated to children - the first time in the history of the men's tournament that the games were devoted to a humanitarian cause.

FIFA has donated US $150,000 to UNICEF to secure and deliver over 600 “sport-in-a-box kits” to twelve countries that are part of the 25 by 2005 campaign.

The kits are being used in Bolivia to create girls football teams in rural schools that are working to attract more girls. In Bhutan they will be used to support the development of girls’ soccer teams in partnership with the National Football Association, a FIFA affiliate. And in Guinea, the kits will go to schools that have some of the lowest attendance rates for girls and will support a UNICEF project to provide more recreational space for both girls and boys.


UNICEF’s 25 by 2005 campaign is a major initiative to eliminate gender disparities in primary and secondary education in 25 countries by the year 2005. The campaign, which includes 13 countries in Africa and six countries in South Asia, focuses on districts where girls’ education is in a critical situation and urgent help is required to meet the Millennium Development Goal of gender parity in primary and secondary education by 2005.

In each country, UNICEF is working with the government to mobilise new resources, build broad national consensus about the need to get girls into school, and help improve schools themselves to make them more welcoming to both girls and boys.

UNICEF has chosen a manageable number of countries and based its selection on criteria that looked for countries with one or more of the following: low enrolment rates for girls; gender gaps of more than 10% in primary education; countries with more than 1 million girls out of school; countries included on the World Bank’s Education For All Fast Track Initiative; and countries hard hit by a range of crises that affect school opportunities for girls, such as HIV/AIDS and conflict.

For further information please contact:

Allison Hickling, UNICEF Media, New York
(+1-212) 326-7224, ahickling@unicef.org




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