On International Women’s Day this year, the UN Women Fiji Multi-Country Office (MCO), through the Pacific Partnership, and Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) announce an exciting new partnership, affirming their joint commitment to gender equality through a multiyear partnership, focusing on making football safer and more accessible for women and girls, while promoting gender equality, supporting women’s empowerment and preventing violence in the Pacific.

“Gender inequality exists in all spheres of life and is the root cause of violence against women and girls. Sport is no exception. Today is the beginning of an exciting new chapter for us at UN Women in the Pacific, as we venture into addressing gender inequality in and through football. UN Women is of course no stranger to women’s sport development in the Pacific, having been part of long-term partnerships involving rugby in Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga, with partners such as Oceania Rugby. We are therefore, absolutely delighted to now welcome on board our new partner, the Oceania Football Confederation. In 2021, OFC launched their 2027 Women’s Football Strategy. UN Women is honoured to work hand-in-hand with OFC to support the realisation of this strategy in the Pacific. Our commitment aligns with UN Women’s global partnership with FIFA on progressing gender equality. With a focus on promoting gender equality and addressing violence against women and girls, we will be working with OFC to ensure that football is safe and accessible for players, officials, and administrators, and that we maximise the opportunity to use football as a powerful force to bring about social change and empower women and girls,” said Sandra Bernklau, Representative for UN Women Fiji MCO.

Group photo taken at a Women’s Football Capacity Buildling Programme in Tonga. Photo Credit: TFA Media.

UN Women is supported through the Pacific Partnership to End Violence Against Women and Girls (Pacific Partnership), funded primarily by the European Union, the Government of Australia and New Zealand, and UN Women.

“Gender equality is everyone’s responsibility and we are actively using football to change the perception of the community toward girls and women for a more equal future,” OFC General Secretary Franck Castillo said.

“Last year, we said we were ‘All In’ when we launched the 2027 OFC Women’s Football Strategy. Now, with the eyes of the world on our region through the hosting of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, we are taking strides to elevate the women’s game in the Pacific and become a world champion in gender equality. The partnership provides collective accountability and shared expertise to address inequality in all forms and work towards a future free from violence for all women and girls.”

“We are excited by what we can achieve together with our Member Associations and partners across the Pacific and beyond.”

OFC is committed to promoting Gender Equality and Women’s Football. Along with activity to increase the development, growth, sustainability and professionalisation of women’s football, OFC has reached close to 400,000 children through the Just Play programme since 2009. Delivered in partnership with the Governments of Australia and New Zealand and the UEFA Foundation for Children, the programme uses football to promote play between boys and girls, change perceptions and create pathways and empower women and girls across the Pacific.

Key strategies and activities under the partnership include:

  • Deepening commitments to improving gender equality, and the participation and empowerment of girls and women throughout football; regional action and national engagement;
  • Undertake efforts to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls in and through football;
  • Facilitate knowledge generation, knowledge sharing and evidence-building across the Pacific and on a global platform with a diversity of sport and non-sport actors to expand and strengthen networks and action across the Pacific; better monitor gender equality actions of football (linked to Sustainable Development Goal 5); and present a united front to key stakeholders including the sport sector, sectors that work on ending violence against women and girls, and current and future donors; and
  • Elevation and promotion of women role models, leadership, participation and engagement in football and society more broadly across the Pacific.


Pacific Partnership to End Violence Against Women and Girls (Pacific Partnership)

The Pacific region has some of the highest rates of violence against women recorded in the world – twice the global average with an estimated two in every three Pacific women impacted by gender-based violence. Along with high rates of violence – a grave human rights violation – women and girls in the Pacific region experience constant and continual inequalities including low levels of participation in decision-making, limited economic opportunities, and restricted access to critical services and rights.

The Pacific Partnership to End Violence Against Women and Girls (Pacific Partnership) brings together governments, civil society organisations, communities, and other partners to promote gender equality, prevent violence against women and girls (VAWG), and increase access to quality response services for survivors.

The EUR27.6 million programme is funded primarily by the European Union (EUR12.7m) with targeted support from the Governments of Australia (EUR11.1m) and New Zealand (EUR3.2m) and cost-sharing with UN Women (EUR0.6m) and is led by the Pacific Community (SPC), UN Women and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. More information is here.

A number of female referees during course. Photo Credit: PNGFA Media.