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Leading women footballers in South America have agreed to work together to defend their rights and unlock the potential of the women’s game.

The agreement followed an unprecedented forum in Santiago, Chile last week that brought together players from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay and Venezuela.The forum was supported by the United Nations and government of Chile.

South American women's national teams have to use men’s kit, receive as little as $8 a day in compensation and sometimes have no games arranged for years; their national football federation puts them in economy class on long-haul plane flights while federation officials sit in business class.

The forum was overseen by Camila Garcia, FIFPro board member, and other co-founders of the Chilean women’s player association.

“The discussions made it clear how much work we have to do in the region and that this forum is only the first step on the way to professionalizing women’s football in South America,” Garcia said. “It is fundamental to create a player network and work together to keep making progress.” nosotras jugamos 325

A government official and UN representative spoke at the forum along with a university professor, who told how women’s football has been suppressed in South America for decades.

Brenda Elsey, a historian at New York’s Hofstra University, said in Brazil, for example, women’s football was watched by big crowds before it was banned for 40 years. Therefore the notion women’s football was only just beginning and needs more time to develop was false, she said.

María Inés Salamanca, coordinator of the UN’s equality initiative in Chile, said the media has also limited the growth of women’s football in South America by focusing on their appearance and not creating more female role models for girls. The media should “end gender stereotypes when they report on women in sport,” Salamanca said.

Kael Becerra, Chile’s deputy sports secretary, said the event was an important step for women’s football. “The forum is a way for athletes to organize themselves better, be well represented and make their voice and message clear,” he said.

The following national-team players participated in the forum held at a UN conference hall:

Brazil: Thais Picarte, Aline Pellegrino*

Chile: Fernanda Pinilla, Bárbara Muñoz*, Francisca Moroso*

Colombia: Catalina Usme, Orianica Velásquez

Uruguay: Ximena Velazco, Valeria Colmán

Venezuela: Maykerlín Astudillo

*Denotes former national-team player.

South America female players at UN 640