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Champions of Change – How football is helping to educate girls in Brazil

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Mother and daughter are now reaping the rewards but, according to Silvana, support from the men in her home is fundamental. They help with domestic chores, easing the workload and leaving the duo with more time to dedicate to their goals.

“My boys help me a lot at home. Whenever they’re there and I’m out working, everything is taken care of when I get home – there’s food on the table, all done!”

It may sound routine to many, but in communities such as theirs, to see male members of the family contribute domestically is rare. All too often, only the men go out to school and work while the women are expected to stay home and run the household.

It’s a story all too familiar to a number of Brazil greats, including Formiga, who has appeared in a world-record seven World Cups and is the only player to appear in every single edition of the women’s football tournament at the Olympic Games.

“My brothers didn’t like to see me play football with other boys,” she said. “There was a lot of jealousy, and the fact that I was much better than them. Their friends would joke about it. Sometimes they’d say football wasn’t for women, who should stay at home washing dishes.”

Thankfully for football, Formiga’s mother felt differently, providing her daughter the strength needed to follow her dreams. Today, Formiga stands as a source of inspiration not only to other young girls from rural North East Brazil, but to girls all around the world.

“My mother always gave me an incentive. ‘Do it’, she’d say. She didn’t stay at home, she’d go out to work.”

And that’s exactly what Plan International’s project has been aiming to achieve. With the parents playing an active role in the project, teenagers are encouraged not to give up on their dreams, but to learn how to build a better world for all. On the day of the tournament, over 300 young girls took the field to showcase their potential.

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