The Women’s World Cup reaches its climax in Lyon this weekend. Over the past month, we’ve seen records broken on the pitch, and some spectacular moments to remember. It’s not just on the pitch where we’ve seen a meteoric shift. This World Cup has seen prize money doubling, TV audiences breaking records worldwide, and more girls than ever emulating their heroes from Lagos to London, Tokyo to Toronto. A sport which was once marginalised is now hitting the mainstream.
Of course, things are still far from perfect in the world of women’s football. The US team – the most successful side in the world – are having to take their own employers to court for gender discrimination. While in Nigeria, many women continue to fight social stigma and economic pressures for the right to play the game at all.
Sadly, this reflects the world beyond the sport. While much progress has been witnessed, the world is a long way from achieving real gender equality – 108 years, or another 27 World Cups. These problems are most entrenched in the poorest parts of the world, where women carry the biggest burden of poverty and bear the greatest brunt of disease.
Even as the world has come together to celebrate women’s talent and achievement – women and girls worldwide have continued to pay the price for the world’s failure to act on this injustice. Since June 7 when the World Cup kicked off:
- Over 63,000 women have contracted HIV
- Approximately one million girls will have been married before the age of 18
- One million more have dropped out of primary education.
The fate of the World Cup will be decided over 90 frenetic minutes in Lyon on Sunday, but over that same period:
- 50 women will die in childbirth
- 1,500 women will experience gender-based violence
- In Nigeria alone, over 200 women will fall into extreme poverty.
This is a global shame, and the world needs to up its game. That’s why we’re fighting for real progress, not empty promises, when world leaders meet at the G7 Summit in Biarritz in August. Putting an end to gender inequality is a huge task, but if leaders seize this moment, the rewards will be immense, unlocking the full potential of over half the world’s population.
So while millions will shortly be able to celebrate a winning World Cup team, we need to remember that not one of us can celebrate a single country that has achieved gender equity.