Dr Mark Biram tells us about his project to empower young girls in Brazil through participation in football. Mark is working closely with Brazilian NGO Meninas em Campo (Girls on the Pitch), as well as leading academic on women’s sport in Brazil, Silvana Goellner, to achieve this aim. The project has recently received an AHRC Impact Acceleration Account award, aligns with the University’s efforts to achieve social justice both at home and abroad, and is yet another example of how arts and humanities research can influence change for the better.
With help from the AHRC Impact Acceleration Account, in collaboration with a Brazilian NGO Meninas em Campo and leading academic on women’s sport in Brazil, Silvana Goellner, we are designing a project aimed at the empowerment of young girls through participation in football from a young age. Our project will raise awareness of crucial social, economic and logistical barriers which currently discourage or prevent girls from participating in football, providing practitioners with a blueprint to replicate the work of Meninas Em Campo (Girls on the Pitch), a project which uses football as a vehicle for the empowerment of girls and to help them negotiate the difficulties of adolescence.
Meninas Em Campo has proved itself to be a highly successful proactive example of promoting gender equality through both discourse and practice. It is a non-profit organisation located in Butantã, São Paulo which offers a space for 9-17 year old girls to develop as footballers. The project is financed by Colégio Santa Cruz and supported by the University of São Paulo. Meninas Em Campo is the largest grassroots socially motivated girls football project, outside of those of the big clubs.
Why is this research important?
Whilst carrying out ethnographic research with Santos FC Women in 2018 & 2019 I became aware of the lack of formalised spaces for girls to play the game from an early age. At present, all major Brazilian clubs have a women’s team, in order to comply with national and international regulations. However, there is still a lacuna in provision for younger girls. Projects like Meninas em Campo provide a blueprint which can be replicated elsewhere.
What does the research project involve?
The project involves producing and disseminating materials which practitioners can use to attract girls to playing the game in the first instance, and to engage them with the wider issues attached to gender and other inequalities through the lens of sport. The project intends to engage with secondary schools across Brazil showcasing the best practices of Meninas em Campo and providing the schools with a range of materials which they can use to develop their own provision for girls’ football.
What are the next steps for Girls on the Pitch?
After the initial scoping trip in January, we have already applied for a further round of funding with a view to producing a guide for practitioners on how best to optimise opportunities to raise issues of gender inequality, problems faced by girls during adolescence and how best to engage the public and private sector into investing in the women’s game. This guide is led by the findings of Dr. Mark Biram’s PhD thesis Women’s Club Football in Brazil and Colombia: A Critical Analysis of Players, Media and Institutions and by the work of Hispanic, Portuguese & Latin American Studies PhD candidate Júlia Belas Trindade, who has published a series of Guardian articles on the growth of the women’s game.
We wish Mark every success with Girls on the Pitch and look forward to seeing how the research project develops.
Dr Mark Biram is an early career researcher and teaching associate in the Department of Hispanic, Portuguese and Latin American Studies. To find out more about Mark’s research, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.