FIFA and UNICEF have joined forces to launch a campaign to promote education, gender equality and rights for women and girls. The 'Goals for Girls!' joint campaign had its official presentation on 7 September in Shanghai during the press conference preceding the start of the FIFA Women's World Cup, China 2007.

Speaking at the press conference, Richard Bridle, UNICEF Deputy Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, underlined that "children, everywhere in the world, have the right to education. Educating girls is key to the fight against poverty, protecting them against violence and exploitation, and informing them about the risks of AIDS. Sport can really help in this aspect." Bridle added: "We are very glad therefore to launch this campaign with our long-term partner, FIFA. We are, moreover, especially happy to do it in China, a country which improved a lot in child education and conditions for women during the last decade."

Read on to learn more about the 'Goals for Girls!' campaign and its targets and actions:

Background and rationale

UNICEF's recent report, The State of the World's Children 2007 showed how eliminating gender discrimination and empowering women have a profound and positive impact on the survival and wellbeing of children.

Gender equality produces the "double dividend" of benefiting both women and children and is pivotal to the health and development of families, communities and nations. When women are empowered to lead full and productive lives, children and families prosper.

The State of the World's Children 2007 focuses on a number of key interventions to enhance gender equality, including "women empowering women", arguing that women themselves are the most important catalysts for change. By challenging and defying discriminatory attitudes in their communities and societies, individual women and women's groups can advance the rights of girls and women for generations to come.

At the same time, UNICEF has been a key force behind the United Nations Girls' Education Initiative (UNGEI), a partnership of organisations committed to the goals of narrowing the gender gap in primary and secondary education and ensuring that, by 2015, all children complete primary schooling, with girls and boys having equal access to free, quality education.

UNICEF is also behind the fast-growing Child-Friendly Schools (CFS) initiative that focuses on the needs of the whole child, so that school is not just a place for learning, but also a place where children feel safe, and where learning becomes fun.

CFS promotes an integrated approach to a healthy, safe and protective environment for children's emotional, psychological and physical wellbeing, including school-based health and nutrition services, life skills and provision of water and sanitation facilities. In addition, these schools enforce policies that guarantee children's safety and protection from violence and harassment.

A Child-Friendly School encourages gender-sensitive learning by providing an intellectually challenging educational setting for both girls and boys. The learning encompasses personal empowerment and social responsibility and an awareness of the extra burden on girls, whether it is housework or caring for younger siblings or elderly family members.

In a Child-Friendly School there are separate sanitation facilities for boys and girls, and boys understand how to behave towards others, particularly towards girls.

UNICEF has also long been a leader in recognising sport, recreation and play not only as rights in themselves, but as powerful instruments in advancing development, peace and the pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Sport can be a particularly powerful instrument in countering the discrimination and disempowerment that continue to limit girls' opportunities to develop to their full potential and maximise their contributions to the societies in which they live.

"Sport can help girls and young women claim their place in society. It can provide girls, who are often under tremendous pressure to begin sexual activity and child­bearing early, a chance to exert more control over their lives. It can help girls gain respect for their bodies and develop self-esteem. It allows them to form friendships. It teaches girls self-sufficiency, personal autonomy and leadership. Challenging the stereotype that girls are weaker than boys, sport exposes girls to female role models, making goals in other areas of their lives seem attainable."

Women athletes as role models and agents of empowerment

The recent history of sport is filled with examples and images that have challenged traditional stereotypes and inspired new generations of girls to break traditional boundaries and aspire to new heights.

Mia Hamm played for the United States women's national football team for 17 years, scoring more international goals in her career than any other player, male or female. She eventually became one of the most famous athletes in the world, an iconic symbol of women's sport, and an inspiration and role model to a generation of girls.

Who could forget the moment in 1984 when Nawal El Moutawakel won the 400m hurdles for women, becoming the first woman from an Islamic nation to win an Olympic medal and the first Moroccan athlete of either gender to win a gold medal?

When she took her victory lap carrying a huge Moroccan flag she became a source of pride and inspiration not only for Moroccan girls and women, but for a whole nation. Today, Nawal is still very active in promoting gender equality through sport and has initiated various successful projects in Morocco as well as in all Africa and the Arab and Muslim world.

On 25 September 2000 Cathy Freeman won the 400m Olympic title in front of her home crowd during the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. As an Aboriginal Australian, she became a role model for her people, and came to be seen by many in the non-Aboriginal community as a symbol of national reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.

Tegla Loroupe was born in rural Kenya as one of 24 siblings. At the age of seven she started making a barefoot run of ten kilometres to and from school every morning. In 1994 she won her first major marathon in New York City. She then went on to win almost all the major marathons in the world. Tegla has since used her fame and inspirational power to promote conflict resolution, peace building and poverty reduction among people affected by and vulnerable to conflicts and civil strife around the world.

Such is the level of media attention on global sporting events that the stories and images of women such as these have reached every corner of the world. The sports in which these women excelled were once only played by men, so today's women athletes have already demonstrated that barriers can be broken and gender stereotypes can be overcome. Female sporting idols in typically male domains are an even more powerful means of promoting gender equality.

Why sport?

Like education, play is a child's right. And like education, play and recreational activities have enormous potential for changing the lives of children. Sport can teach children important values and social skills, such as cooperation, self-esteem, fair play and respect for others, as well as being good for their physical and mental development. That is why organisations like UNICEF are increasingly using sport as in instrument to advance development and peace.

Sport, education and girls

Sport is a particularly good way of reaching out to girls and for them to gain knowledge about the own body and its functions (health issues, hygiene, etc). Sport can provide girls with opportunities to connect with others socially, something that many girls are denied because of the burdens of housework, childcare and other family chores. When girls are given the chance to take part in sport, they can challenge the stereotypes that label them as less able than boys. Sport, like education, can help girls become equal players in society.

Using sport to campaign for girls' education

A campaign needs powerful, effective ways to communicate its messages. Sport - and in particular football -because of its near universal appeal, is one such way. Sporting events - and especially the FIFA Women's World Cup - provide ideal platforms for reaching large numbers of people, whether at the events themselves or through media coverage.

Why China?

With the world's fastest-growing large economy, biggest population and rich culture and history, China is the powerful new force on the global scene. UNICEF has a solid programme in China and strong partners who can be relied on to deliver on their commitments.

The fact that China is hosting the FIFA Women's World Cup 2007 provides a unique opportunity to bring a special focus to both the situation of girls and women globally and the good work that UNICEF and its partners are doing in China to address gender discrimination and promote Child-Friendly Schools with their focus on gender sensitivity, sport and physical activities.

Teams, players, athletes and coaches coming to the FIFA Women's World Cup 2007 from all over the world will also be enlisted to lend their support.

Challenging Gender Discrimination and Empowering Girls through Education and Sport

'Goals for Girls!', a joint UNICEF and FIFA initiative

Goal

To use the power of sport and the international appeal of football and the FIFA Women's World Cup 2007 as platforms for an integrated global campaign to contribute to eliminate gender discrimination and empower women and girls. The campaign will promote education for girls and child-friendly schools as the most effective approaches to achieving this end.

The campaign will include a major focus on China, which has 20 per cent of the world's girls and women, but will be developed in such a way as to allow global impact and appeal.

Campaign objectives

1) To use the power of sport to increase respect for girls and women and to support achievement of the MDGs, especially MDG 3: promote gender equality and empower women.

2) Focusing on policy-makers, media, donors and influential role models for women and girls, to advocate increased understanding of - and greater support for - Child-Friendly Schools and the importance of ensuring that girls and boys have equal access to free, quality education.

3) To support efforts under way in China and globally to increase the number of Child-Friendly Schools.

4) To provide opportunities for UNICEF National Committees, especially those in countries that have qualified for the FIFA Women's World Cup finals (Australia, Canada, Denmark, England, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, USA), to expand the campaign internationally, and to reach out to the ethnic Chinese communities in their countries.

The 'Nu' logo and taglines

'Nu' is a single Chinese language character and represents the female, the heart of UNICEF and FIFA's joint global communication campaign, 'Goals for Girls!'.

The design of the logo characterises a female figure in motion, running, dancing, moving forward. Empowering girls and women to advance is the ultimate goal of this UNICEF-FIFA partnership.

While 'Goals for Girls!' will be effective at global level, a slogan that will resonate with and be more appealing to local audiences needed to be developed. Therefore the Chinese translation of 'Equality Creates Opportunities' will be the campaign's slogan in China.