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Lydia Nsekera, FIFA's first female executive and Isha Johansen, President of the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) and the only female president of a Football Association in Africa are joining forces with FIFA and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to promote the participation of African women and girls in football through an annual forum on the subject.
The annual forum will be entitled Power Play: giving African women and girls a voice through the sport of football. The format, date and location of the inaugural event will be discussed on 4th July in Vancouver, Canada as part of the FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 symposium, to ensure that representatives from FIFA's member associations can be involved in the decision making.
Power Play was conceived by Isha Johansen and Sierra Leonean firm Elixir Marketing and Media. They argue that while women's football in Africa has been the focus of previous FIFA roundtable discussions and conferences, Power Play will keep it on the agenda by making it the subject of an annual forum.
Commenting on the thinking behind it, Isha Johansen says: "Football in Africa is rough, gruelling, and very male-dominated. It is also our most popular sport and could offer great career potential for African women as well as a way for them to change both their self-perception and the way they are perceived by society.
"Women's football globally has a bright future, and by creating a dedicated space to discuss the particular challenges of the sport in Africa, we can help ensure that we are part of that future."
Johansen also believes that women's football could offer a way of supporting the UN's Millennium Development Goal 3 - to promote gender equality and empower women. "Taking part in football can build confidence and self-esteem in the players, and women who are more confident and empowered are more likely to be able to stand up to the forms of abuse they may encounter in very unequal societies," she says.
"By increasing the participation of women and girls in a sport which is so heavily male dominated, we hope to encourage better appreciation of the importance of gender equality in school and in the wider society."
Nsekera and Isha Johansen are themselves veterans of the football industry in Africa. Both have been immersed in the game from a young age, as participants, spectators, officials and football administrators; and as nationals of Burundi and Sierra Leone respectively, they have first-hand experience of the potential that African football offers to African women.
One of FIFA's primary goals is to increase the awareness of women's football and enhance the opportunities for girls to participate. Factors that impact the development of football in Africa include limited access to education, women's inequality in society as well as less investment in the game.
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