Women who have achieved great stature in government, industry, sport and the media have become a familiar sight.
“And yet, it appears there is no clear public understanding of the realities of the lives of women and girls in this country,” Hilo says.
She believes the role of women in Vanuatu society is constantly evolving and has changed significantly over the last few years – with females being afforded more opportunities and facing different challenges than those they have faced in the past.
“Today in Port Vila only a few girls are playing football and I believe there will be more in the future,” she says.
“Our customs in the islands are very strong and the chiefs haven’t allowed girls and women to wear shorts. But today in Vila and Santo, girls are starting to wear shorts and play sport which is very good to see.”
Hilo says she is grateful for the role Just Play has played in bringing boys and girls together in sport.
“It is always important to mix girls and boys together in sport when they are still kids as when they grow older they will be better sportsmen and women.
“Another good thing about Just Play is it helps children to live a healthy lifestyle and the programme also helps adults to live a healthier lifestyle.”
Developed by the OFC social responsibility and technical departments, Just Play is designed for children aged six to 12 and promotes physical activity while encouraging community involvement, healthy living, gender equality and disability development.
OFC has worked closely with UEFA, the Australian Government – through its agencies the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) – and Football Federation Australia to implement the programme across the Pacific over a three-year period between 2009 and 2012. It was launched in Tonga and is now also running in American Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tahiti and Vanuatu.
The confederation has also been working in New Zealand with Special Olympics on a Just Play programme for people with mental disabilities and has launched the same initiative in Samoa and Fiji.
Just Play has reached over 100,000 children – 43 per cent of whom are female – across the Pacific and trained over 2,000 teachers and volunteers.
For more on Vanuatu football go to www.vanuafoot.vu