By Ellen Wulfhorst (Thomson Reuters Foundation) | 12 July 2018
Known in Brazil as “Pele in a skirt” in a reference to the soccer icon, Marta is the all-time top scorer of the FIFA Women’s World Cup
UNITED NATIONS – Brazilian soccer superstar Marta Vieira da Silva on Thursday was appointed a goodwill ambassador by UN Women, which said she would use her fame to promote gender equality and tackle stereotypes, especially in sport, amid World Cup mania.
Sport can be a key and often untapped way to empower girls and women, although they are underrepresented and underpaid compared with men, the U.N. agency said in its announcement.
The appointment of the player – known widely as Marta – comes amid worldwide fervor for soccer, with the final of the World Cup to be played on Sunday between France and Croatia.
Known in Brazil as “Pele in a skirt” in a reference to the soccer icon, Marta is the all-time top scorer of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, and was a member of the Brazilian teams that won silver medals at the 2004 and 2008 Summer Olympic Games.
Now 32, she plays for The Orlando Pride in the National Women’s Soccer League in the United States.
“Sport is a universal language; it inspires and unites us as it stretches our limits,” UN Women executive director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said in a statement.
“We look forward to working closely with Marta to bring the transforming power of sport to more women and girls, and to rapidly building equality.”
Sport helps build self-confidence and leadership skills, but women and girls face fewer opportunities, less investment and greater discrimination when they play, according to UN Women.
The U.N. agency cited a 2017 salaries survey by Sporting Intelligence – an online news and data source – showing elite women athletes on average earn 1 percent of what elite men earn.
No female athletes featured on a ranking of the top 100 highest paid sports stars released by Forbes last month – marking the first year since 2010 that no women made the cut.
“I know, from my life experience, that sport is a fantastic tool for empowerment,” Marta said in a statement.
“Through sport, women and girls can challenge socio-cultural norms and gender stereotypes and increase their self-esteem, develop life skills and leadership,” she added.
She previously served as a goodwill ambassador for UNDP, the United Nations’ anti-poverty arm. Goodwill ambassadors typically promote such issues as gender equality or anti-violence efforts.