Soccer supremo Marta Vieira da Silva visits Sierra Leone

2 September 2011 at 05:30 | 2643 views

Fresh from her women’s soccer championship win in the United States, the world’s top female player, Marta Vieira da Silva, today (August 31, 2011) kicks off a three-day visit to Sierra Leone to highlight the country’s efforts to empower women.

Vieira da Silva, a Brazilian national known to her fans as Marta, is a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), as well as a forward player with the Western New York Flash.

Following a 1-1 match draw during which Marta scored, her team finally beat the Philadelphia Independence 5-4 in a penalty shootout in Rochester, western New York to take the championship on Saturday.

“We all need to contribute to help defeat poverty,” said Marta, five-time winner of the FIFA Women’s Player of the Year title. “UNDP works around the world making a positive difference in people’s lives, and I am proud to add my personal commitment to its work.”

On her first trip to Africa since her appointment as a UNDP Goodwill Ambassador last year, Marta will be visiting Sierra Leone to promote local efforts that empower women, one of the eight internationally-agreed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which seek to end extreme poverty by 2015.

She will visit UNDP programmes, and meet with young women and advocacy groups that are lobbying the national parliament to enact laws that ensure women’s quotas at all levels of political decision making.

“Women’s full participation in leadership and decision making is critical for the consolidation of peace and security, as well as meaningful for overall development in Sierra Leone,” said Mia Seppo, UNDP Country Director. “Marta’s visit will showcase some of the good work that has been done towards achieving these goals.”

Sierra Leone is among several post-conflict countries in Africa where UNDP has helped to establish legal services aimed at women who experienced sexual violence or abuse, providing them with aid and advice on their rights and options for pursuing justice.

Gender equality and women’s rights are a priority area for UN work in Sierra Leone where 73 percent of women are illiterate, and females currently occupy only 37 percent of secondary school places, and only 19 percent of university slots.

Marta was appointed a UNDP Goodwill Ambassador in October 2010 to promote the MDGs, with a special emphasis on the gender dimension of poverty. She is part of an elite group of UNDP Goodwill Ambassadors, which includes soccer stars Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane, Iker Casillas and Didier Drogba, Japanese actress Misako Konno, Crown Prince Haakon Magnus of Norway, Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova and Spanish actor Antonio Banderas.