Friday 27 January 2023, 10:00

A major boost for Rwandan women’s football

  • Rwanda Football Association (FERWAFA) has presented its strategic development plan for women’s football

  • Four-year plan is based on five main areas of action

  • Main objectives include doubling the number of Rwandan girls playing football by 2025

The Rwanda Football Association (FERWAFA) recently unveiled its strategic development plan for women’s football for the 2022-2025 period, in collaboration with FIFA and its Women’s Football Division.

The plan has been two years in the making, a period that involved a number of meetings and workshops held with the idea of generating vital information that could be used to identify key areas and the creation of goals and objectives.

FERWAFA sees the plan as significant to the development of women’s football and to its ability to exert a positive influence in Rwandan society. The plan has also been designed to take the women’s game onto a whole new level in the African country.

“As FIFA, it’s up to us to strategically and structurally continue supporting women’s football,” said Abigail Hailemichael, FIFA Regional Office Development Coordinator for North and East Africa. “The first step is to always have a strategic plan, and we were able to support FERWAFA by structuring their strategic plan for women’s football”.

That plan comprises 19 objectives and 109 actions to be implemented over the next four years and sets out a vision for building a robust and vibrant women’s football ecosystem that strives for professionalism, integrated training and excellence at every level.

Underpinning the strategy are five key areas of action: competitions; youth development and grassroots football; education and skills development; administration and governance; and marketing and sponsorship.

The aim is to speed up, and streamline the shaping of a professional and sustainable future for the women’s game in Rwanda and improved opportunities and conditions for its players, coaches and administrators, both on and off the pitch.

FERWAFA’s objectives for the next four years are ambitious and include doubling the number of Rwandan girls playing football by 2025, organising more elite competitions, and making football the No. 1 sport for women and girls in Africa.

“I’m excited by the direction that women’s football is taking in Rwanda and I have no doubt that it will continue to grow strongly,” said Thuba Sibanda, a FIFA women’s football consultant supporting the project.

“FERWAFA directors have pledged to make women’s football a priority by breathing new life into the national teams, embarking on a process of renewal for women’s football, and guaranteeing a coherent programme for girls and the women’s game from grassroots to the elite.

“I am confident that in the long term this framework will allow the association to overcome challenges and create sustainable practices for the future. Ultimately, this will have a positive impact on the lives of women and children and on Rwanda’s wider football community over the next four years.”

As FERWAFA National Director of Football Gerard Buscher explained, the ultimate goal on the field of play is to raise the standard of Rwanda’s women’s national team. One way they hope to do that is by improving the quality of training sessions and the way in which the game is managed, through the construction of a residential centre at FERWAFA’s head office.

“Our men’s and women’s national team will be able to be on site.” he said. “We will be able to bring the biggest talents also, in addition to training for clubs. We also need to raise the level of quality of the coaches. When you do that, you can raise the level of the players. So this is the plan.”

FIFA launched its Women’s Development Programme in September 2020. The programme aims to help its 211 member associations to continue developing the women’s game across the globe. FIFA hopes to see 60 million women and girls worldwide playing the game by 2026.

Key objectives

FIFA will achieve its objectives by executing a five-pronged strategy to:

Govern & lead … strive for gender balance

Every MA will have one spot on its Executive Committee dedicated to the interests of women and by 2026 have at least one woman seated, while by 2022, at least one-third of FIFA committee members will be women. Strengthen and expand the Female Leadership Development Programme and improve professionalisation and regulatory oversight.

Educate and empower

Address and bring focus to specific social and health issues and reach out to NGOs and government stakeholders to develop sustainable projects that improve the lives of women.

Develop and grow … on and off the pitch

By 2022, have women’s football strategies in 100% of member associations, and by 2026, double the number of MAs with organised youth leagues. Expand football in school programmes, create elite academies and increase the number of qualified coaches and referees, vastly improving access to the game for girls.

Showcase the game … improve women’s competitions

Optimise regional qualifying for FIFA competitions and develop those events to build top-level players at a young age. Advance and launch new international competitions and improve the professional club framework.

Communicate & commercialise … broaden exposure & value

Advance awareness of top female athletes and raise the profile of women’s football by enhancing engagement, harnessing technology, implementing a distinct brand strategy and using role models and ambassadors as well as a dedicated Women’s Legends Programme. By 2026, launch a Women’s Football Commercial Programme.