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Sports Equality Enforcers; No More Barriers For Women in Sport!

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Imagine growing up watching your brother or father juggle a ball for hours in the backyard, but when it’s game day, you aren’t allowed to watch him play in the stadium. You can only see him play on TV or hear from others about that time he scored that amazing goal or made a tackle that saved the game. This is unfortunately the reality of daughters, sisters, wives and mothers today in certain countries where gender equality is not enforced.

The birth of Team Sports Equality Enforcers

The idea that these women can’t even watch their loved ones play shook Mara Gubuan, who co-founded Shirzanan media and advocacy organization for Muslim female athletes in 2014 and has moved on to expand her advocacy work beyond issues limited to Muslim females. She is developing a formal work coalition to follow up on issues introduced by the Sports Equality Enforcers team of amazing individuals which she recruited to compete at Global Goals World Cup, playing for GOAL #5: Gender Equality. Gubuan is co-captain along with former Shirzanan athlete ambassador Hajar Abulfazl of Afghanistan. They work to advance women’s rights and foster gender equality by eliminating institutional and cultural barriers to sports.

“For America where we consider sports as an activity for all genders, whether it be a family or group of friends, imagine the stadium full of only men or half full because women are not allowed. That is a compelling argument for gender equality,” Gubuan says

Specific Goals

To challenge gender norms and provide opportunities, it is crucial for men to understand the unfair conditions that women face in the world of sports. Gubuan wants their coalition to be a catalyst for change by confronting the most egregious gender inequities. Her strategic plan 

supporting athlete ambassador Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir as an advocate and forming a coalition with Athlete Ally, Women’s Sports Foundation, UN Women Sport, HRW and Women Win contributed to overturning the decades-old hijab ban in basketball and reducing religious discrimination against Muslim women in sports. She intends to support and build upon the great work of Human Rights Watch in challenging the stadium ban in Iran. This ban excludes women as spectators, denying them access to public space to watch the men’s national football and volleyball team matches, including during the current World Cup qualifiers.

“In the area of sport there are innumerable issues whether it be access to sports equipment, training, sponsorships or scholarships,” Gubuan says. “There is so much inequity that we feel sport’s unifying power and universal platform can bring people together to speak out against injustices and stand up for equality.”

Establishing a Platform for Change

Like many participating teams, Gubuan views Global Goals World Cup as an opportunity for collaboration. She believes these women who are shedding light on different SDG's will energize and inspire a collective mission to improve the world. Teams can create a base foundation for change that has the potential to last much longer than the duration of the tournament.  

Soccer’s world popularity offers an opportunity for Sports Equality to cross boundaries of prejudice and galvanize men to support women in this quest for gender equality.

“Because soccer is popular with men and boys worldwide, we must use this sport as an  example of the exclusion of women. And by exclusion I mean not only access to sports but also increasing the media representation of female athletes, the number of female teams, coaches and seats on governing boards.”

Joining Gubuan as Sports Equality Enforcers are Lori Lindsey for Athlete Ally, Ericka Kriedel for Women’s Sports Foundation and Free to Run, Sally Roberts for TrueSport, Tecia Torres for Wrestle Like A Girl, Becky Clark for WoBold Sports, Hajar Abulfazl for Tawana Ladies’ Football Club of Afghanistan, Liz Stanton for The Through Her Eyes Project, and supported by the Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy

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