ALL Ladies League spearheading female empowerment
The ALL Ladies League has launched a Sport Chapter
Football played a crucial role in its inception
FIFA.com spoke with the Argentinian woman leading the project
When Carolina Garcia was asked to take charge of the Sport Chapter of the ALL Ladies League, a multinational movement that brings together more than 1.5 million women in 150 countries, she did not hesitate for a second to accept the invitation with honour. With the aim of empowering women in all walks of life, Garcia knew instantly where she would begin.
“Football, which is what I know best,” the 56-year-old Argentinian told FIFA.com with a broad smile.
When announcing the 4 August launch, ALL described Garcia as “an inspiring and motivational figure who has spent more than eight years increasing the visibility of all women, both on and off the pitch. She is a role model in Argentina who is consulted and called upon worldwide.”
Garcia is not one to dwell on compliments, so she moves the conversation away from the praise she has received and focuses on the finer points of the Chapter. “The League had previously launched Chapters related to sport in general, but not to one discipline in particular,” she explained. “This one is the first, and for now, the only one in the world.
"I have been trying to position women’s football for almost a decade, and so it seemed an ideal way of making a breakthrough. I’ll touch on other disciplines like rugby, hockey, tennis and basketball, but I know the problems faced by football pretty well, and I have a lot of contacts, so it was easy for me.”
To develop the Chapter, Garcia will work side-by-side with another Argentinian, Lina Anllo, a compliance lawyer who leads the Women Economic Forum, an organisation established by ALL in Argentina. Between the two of them, they have been devising an agenda, which, due to the pandemic, is limited to virtual talks for now, “but the idea is also to undertake tasks in the field, holding workshops and running face-to-face activities as soon as the situation allows it,” according to Garcia.
Participants can sign up to follow the talks free of charge, and can even ask questions, which, in the event they are not addressed live, “serve to guide us towards points we need to discuss.”
The first one focused on the challenges of being a female football coach, covering issues such as lack of opportunity, the wage gap with men, and other gender-related questions, like working with female players during their menstrual cycles.
“Last year I attended a women’s coaching conference and I couldn’t believe the figures: out of a total of 150, only eight of them were in work,” she said. “Today there are 200 of them, and the problem remains.”
Garcia is keen to go into more detail about the concept behind the Chapter: “We could have chosen a topic with more prominence, sure, but part of the idea of ALL is to give a voice to those who have difficulty being heard, whether they are participants on or off the pitch.”
“We were really spoiled by the panel we had. It included Ecuadorian Vanessa Arauz, who’s in the Guinness Book of Records for being the youngest coach at either a FIFA World Cup™ or FIFA Women’s World Cup™, Spaniard Patricia Campos, who’s a coach but also a participant in a number of projects in Africa that use football as a way of encouraging social integration, and Roxana Vallejos, who coaches Rosario Central’s women’s team in Argentina.”
Football continued to be the main focus of the subsequent talks, according to Garcia, a breast cancer survivor who was part of the FIFA working group at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Costa Rica 2014™.
“One topic we covered was women coaching men’s teams, and whether this represents a paradigm shift,” she said. “Among the guests were Silvana Villalobos, the only female coach in Argentina in charge of a men’s team, and Epifania Benitez from Paraguay, who works with all of the women’s national teams in her country.
“The panel also tackled current issues in Argentina such as protocols in situations involving gender-based violence, something that several AFA clubs are doing,” added the fan of Boca Juniors, a choice she made in an act of rebellion against her father and mother, supporters of Racing Club and River Plate respectively.
In keeping with the philosophy of 'show one woman to another woman', Patricia Rodriguez, the first woman in the history of men’s football in Spain to run a club in La Liga (Elche), and Paraguayan Monserrat Jimenez, CONMEBOL Deputy General Secretary and Legal Director, led a talk on female leaders.
Garcia pointed out that, for the moment, the talks are only in Spanish, but that the intention is to have live translations in place soon. “That will enable us to open up the game,” she noted, using one of the many football metaphors she employs on a daily basis.
“I also like to talk about ‘passing the ball’, because once we throw a topic out there, other key participants have to take it and do something else with it."
In fact, it was Garcia herself who came up with the ‘#NivelarLaCancha’ (Level the playing field) hashtag, which is also now the name of an award that WEF Argentina will present to the world in December of this year. The last word goes to Garcia: “I always say the same thing: the Chapter starts here, but we will all write its history together.”
Did you know?
FIFA has launched a programme to help member associations further develop women’s football.
FIFA has published the Women’s Football Administrator Handbook, aimed at member associations, with the goal of empowering women and contributing to their professionalism.