England captain Leah Williamson addresses gender stereotypes at the UN

leah williamson arsenal save the children
Leah Williamson addresses the U.N. about gender

Leah Williamson will address the United Nations today, telling world leaders: 'Don't leave girls behind.'

The 26-year-old has been invited to speak about her recent visit to the largest Syrian refugee camp in the world as part of the United Nations’ Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) Summit. She travelled to Za’atari in Jordan to see how football has brought positivity to the women and girls living in the camp, an initiative supported by her team, Arsenal, and Save the Children.

In 2018, The Arsenal Foundation and Save the Children combined their expertise to launch Coaching for Life – a programme that uses the power of football to build a sense of belonging and improve the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of children and their families affected by the Syrian war.

Speaking in a press release, she said: 'Sport has the power to change lives, but it’s still not a level playing field for so many girls around the world. Football definitely changed my life. After visiting the Za’atari refugee camp, I’ve seen first-hand how our football programme, Coaching for Life, is helping the girls in the camp cope better with the challenges they face.

leah williamson arsenal save the children
leah williamson arsenal save the children

'Almost all women footballers will have a story about the challenges they faced taking up the game, but at least in countries like England and America we had a chance. In some countries, girls have social restrictions that limit their access to playing football and that has to change. Through The Arsenal Foundation’s work with Save the Children, we’ve shown in Za’atari how we can empower girls through sport, and how boys can play an active role with us on that journey.

'My message to everyone is that we have a big second half ahead but, if we work together, we can get the result we need.

'I’ve seen the progress at Za’atri, but there’s still so much more to do to level the playing field for girls around the world. We need to harness the power of sport and make sure we don’t leave girls behind.'

Arsenal women have challenged gender stereotypes and pioneered new ground ever since the team’s formation in 1987, and the last season set a new record for a domestic women’s game in England by selling out the Emirates Stadium during the Champions League.

The United Nation’s Sustainable Development goals are designed with the focus of ending poverty, hunger, AIDS and discrimination against women and girls.

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