DUBAI: In a groundbreaking move at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, three female referees were, for the first time in the 92-year history of the men’s competition, selected to officiate matches: Stephanie Frappart, Yamashita Yoshimi and Salima Mukansang.
Mouvement Alternatif pour les Libertes Individuelles, a Morocco-based nonprofit organization, decided to use this historic occasion to raise awareness and spark conversations about women’s issues through its “Refs for Change” campaign.
MALI launched its initiative on Nov. 25, coinciding with the start of UN Women’s campaign “16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence,” which calls for an end to violence against women and girls.
As part of “Refs for Change,” every time a female referee blows the whistle during a World Cup match, MALI tweets in real time to highlight the achievements of women who are or were pioneers in other male-dominated fields.
“Every day, women across the world make great strides and pioneer in different fields that for a long time were reserved only for men,” said MALI spokesperson and activist Ibtissame Lachgar.
“At the same time, women across the world are subjected to different types of violence. The press often turns a blind eye, causing both groups to remain largely unknown.
“Being pioneers themselves, the first-ever female referees in a men’s World Cup have the unique opportunity to draw attention to the patriarchal system, to male domination and male violence against women through the power of their whistle.”
MALI’s tweets aim to do more than simply raise awareness. They also invite Twitter users to engage in conversation and debate about topics such as women’s rights and gender-based violence, and serve as call for donations to help empower women across the Middle East and North Africa region.
By tweeting in real time during World Cup matches, MALI said it aims to shift the spotlight from men to women who would otherwise never get global attention.
“Transforming female referees and their whistles into messengers of change is a powerful way to hijack the conversation during the World Cup and shine a spotlight on striking statistics that would otherwise remain in the shadows,” said Walid Kanaan, the chief creative officer at TBWA\RAAD, the creative agency that worked on the campaign. It marks the third consecutive year in which the agency has partnered with MALI.