In a recent interview, FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura underlined just how important supporting and developing women's football is for FIFA: "The reforms institutionally increased female representation on the FIFA Council, but it was up to us, the administration, to make sure that the concept was reflected in how we operate. So, for the first time ever, FIFA has a dedicated Women’s Football Division. It’s a change of status. It means a dedicated budget, a seat on our management board. This will have a direct impact on the game."
During these sessions the focus will be on the following areas, among others:
· What stands in the way of gender equality?
· Women in football: players, coaches, referees and decision-makers
· The other side of gender: how to engage men
· Sport as a tool for inclusion and humanitarian work
· Fighting racism and sexism in sport
In an interview with FIFA.com to be published on Saturday, Karina LeBlanc, a former Canada international goalkeeper who will take part at the conference, said: "I'm a black woman. I would love to walk into a room and know everyone sees me as an equal. But I know that’s not my reality. Gender equality around the world starts with the conversation, it starts with awareness, it starts with the small changes. Drastic changes don't happen over night."
Alongside LeBlanc, other well-known figures from the world of sports, politics and economics will be in attendance in order to speak about their experiences. These include Khalida Popal, former captain of the Afghanistan women's national team; Layhoon Chan, president of Spanish top-flight side Valencia; and Raha Moharrak, who was the first Saudi woman to climb Mount Everest.
Other guest speakers include Clarence Seedorf, a FIFA Legend and four-time UEFA Champions League winner; Piara Powar, executive director of the FARE (Football Against Racism in Europe) network; Lakshmi Puri, deputy director of UN Women (the UN department for Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment); and important decision makers at FIFA such as Sarai Bareman and Joyce Cook. Sherine Tadros, head of the UN Office in New York for Amnesty International, will host the event.
In staging this international conference, FIFA aims to broaden its support for women's football and offer a much-needed platform to discuss how to support women in sport and in society as a whole. The first conference on women's football and leadership was successfully held in March 2015.
View the full programme and information on the guest speakers for the FIFA Conference for Equality and Inclusion 2017.