16 April 2024


Everyone wants to live in a place where they feel safe and welcome. We all need a place that feels like home. For people fleeing conflict and persecution, football can play a hugely important role in that. Football is a universal language, transcending cultural and social divides and uniting people from all backgrounds.

As the Women’s Football Officer at Amnesty International UK, I bring the world of human rights and football together, specifically focusing on refugee women and girls. A main aim of my role is to get football clubs across the whole of the UK to integrate female refugees into their programmes.

I have had many opportunities in different environments, both personal and professional, to fully understand the vast needs of refugee women and girls in football. I can draw on my own experiences as a player where I have represented the Lebanese women’s national team in the Olympic qualifiers as well as having various different jobs in football (coach and mentor) to be able to share my knowledge and expertise.

Refugee inclusion in football has traditionally focused on men and boys and very rarely focuses on the needs of women and girls. Yet half of all refugees in the world are women and have just as much right to participate in physical activity. There are barriers for women in football, as we know, but the barriers for refugee women in football tend to be higher, so clubs must be fully inclusive. Intersectionality is a theory that forms the foundation of my approach to creating a wider understanding of inclusion. It highlights how various aspects of an individual's social and political identities intertwine to shape distinct experiences of discrimination and privilege in society, which feeds into the realm of sports, particularly football.


Making the connection

It is important to recognise that not all women have support from their family or friends when it comes to participating in sport. A lot of the women we engage with have discussed how their cultural beliefs have been a huge factor in not being able to play football. When it comes to planning sessions for refugee and asylum-seeking women, I always give the example of first planning a tea-and-biscuits social but with a twist. As we have to be conscious of the potential cultural barriers, we need to create a space where we can make that connection between themselves and football that they have not had before. What I mean by tea and biscuits with a twist is having the table surrounded by loads of footballs. So, in order for them to get their tea or their biscuits they will need to kick through a sea of footballs, creating a conscious or subconscious connection with the ball and a foundation we can build from.

We need to come together to acknowledge the imbalance and to bring about nationwide change by creating environments for refugee women to feel a sense of belonging in, so that they can truly believe that football is a sport for them. Understanding the many barriers they face in accessing football is the initial step. These obstacles encompass cultural beliefs, care-giving responsibilities, some faiths' discomfort in mixed environments (despite a lack of all-female spaces), inadequate representation, period poverty and more.

In 2017 Amnesty International UK launched our Football Welcomes programme, which comprises our Football Welcomes Community Projects, Football Welcomes Month, and my role as the Women’s Football Officer. Based in different areas across the UK, the Football Welcomes Community Projects involve weekly football sessions specifically for refugees and people seeking asylum, and provide additional development opportunities. The projects were established to find the most effective way for clubs and county FAs to work with local organisations to create more welcoming communities for refugees and people seeking asylum all year round.


Ways to support

Our Football Welcomes Month runs throughout April, when we highlight the amazing work done through the rest of the year to support refugees, and celebrate the contribution made by refugees to the game of football – dating back to the Spanish Civil War. Hundreds of men's and women’s clubs, from the professional game to the grassroots, come together to show their support. There are many ways that clubs, foundations, county FAs and other organisations and individuals can get involved, such as:

  • first-team players wearing our Football Welcomes tops to warm up in before a game
  • posting on social media
  • providing free tickets to matches for refugees and people seeking asylum
  • running a Football Welcomes feature in matchday programmes
  • posting on their website
  • issuing press releases


Over the past couple of years, we have seen more women’s teams getting involved and to support our Football Welcomes Month – which is amazing to see and amazing to be a part of. We have also seen an increase in sign-ups to our webinars on engaging refugee women and girls, in partnership with the FA, as well as an upturn in demand for panel discussions on the topic. More attention is being drawn to the importance of creating spaces for refugee women and girls in football, prompting club foundations to acknowledge the ever-growing need for such programmes.

Refugee women’s sessions are built on trust, so our job as individuals and as organisations is to be a voice for the voiceless and to make a difference to a group of people who largely go overlooked in footballing initiatives.

To find out more or to get involved, please contact me at

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