Freetown: International soccer star ends visit

7 September 2011 at 02:53 | 2801 views

UNDP Goodwill Ambassador, Marta Vieira Da Silva, who is also five time FIFA world female player of the year ended a two day visit to Sierra Leone today, Sunday 4th September 2011 to promote women’s empowerment with the message “When women succeed, we all win.”

Marta ended her visit with a football match between Diamond Queens, which she coached and Sierra Queens led by Musu Pele, the best ever Sierra Leonean female footballer as coach/player after having watched the male national team, Leone Stars defeat Egypt 2-1 in the Africa Nations Cup qualifier on Saturday in Freetown.

Marta (seen in top photo in Kingtom, Freetown and with female soccer players in photo below), throughout her visit stopped by to shake hands, wave and take pictures with fans and admirers, met with University students, civil society groups and young female footballers and pupils of Ahmadiyya Muslim Secondary School, located in a poor area east of Freetown, where she also spoke to the press adding that “I am a stronger person after my visit to Sierra Leone.”

Earlier on Saturday, she met with women’s groups advocating for a 30% quota for women in all decision making bodies saying “When I see the will and commitment of these women I am definitely convinced that women’s empowerment is essential for peace and development”

Hon. Bernadette Lahai, a female Member of Parliament said “At the moment there are only 13% women in parliament. This must change but in order to achieve our aim of a minimum 30% representation of women in all decision making bodies at local and national level, we will need the support of all women across the country and from all walks of life.”

UNDP is supporting the advocacy agenda led by Sierra Leonean women for a law to be passed in parliament to ensure a 30% quota for women before the 2012 elections advocated for Sierra Leonean women.

Marta also visited the Careers Advisory and Placement Service Centre at Fourah Bay College, a UNDP project within the University of Sierra Leone aimed at supporting young people in the university find jobs and gain requisite experiences. She met with a mixed group of male and female students, telling them her story of how she defied all odds including difficult childhood to become the best female player in the world. She told the young students “I am here to tell you my story, but also to learn about your story … through my story I want to tell you nothing is impossible”

Marta responded to various questions from the students who were keen to learn from the football superstar. One of the students, said that Marta’s presence is an inspiration for her to achieve success in her own chosen career of Business and Finance. “Even though I am not a footballer, I think her story of perseverance and steadfastness against all odds is a great inspiration to continue to work hard every day for myself and also for society”

In a reception hosted in honour of Sierra Leonean women in football, she met past and current women in female football in Sierra Leone including members of the Sierra Leone Female committee led by Ms Isha Johanssen and Ms Nicky Spencer-Coker. She also met Anna Williams the current national female football team head coach and past vice captain Fonnie Conteh.

Musu Pele Bangura, former captain for ten years, presented a Sierra Leone national team jersey to her. Marta said “I have met outstanding current and past players like Musu Pele, Fonnie Conteh, Martha and many others. They are not only great players, they are role models for all women in the country”

UNDP Sierra Leone Country Director, Ms Mia Seppo said: “The UNDP Access to Justice project is supporting access to justice and security for security of women and girls particularly for survivors of sexual and gender based violence through provision of victims support to meet the cost of prosecution and legal aid services at community level”

Ms Mia Seppo added, “We should keep in mind however that this visit is about youth, women and football. It is our hope that Marta’s presence will inspire the many young women. You are facing many challenges and various forms of discrimination”

“Young people need role models not critics. In Marta you have a role model. I hope your trust and hope for the future will be strengthened when you see
that it is possible, through hard work and determination, to overcome obstacles and reach ones dreams” said Mia Seppo to the gathered group of young women at the Women’s forum.