Held at UNSW’s Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM) from Monday 27 to Wednesday 29 November, the Arezo Women’s Sports Leadership Program “Dream – Believe – Achieve” brought together 20 emerging female leaders in sport from Afghan-Australian and newly arrived refugee communities across Australia. 

Participants included Policy Advisor at the Victorian Government Office for Women Asma Mirzae, a passionate advocate for young women in sport, Razwana Husseini who has been playing football since 2017 with Sydney United Afghan Girls, and Program Officer at Football Queensland Anar Gul Amin who was born in Afghanistan and moved to Australia at the age of five with her family.

“The Azero Women’s Leadership program helped guide me to understand my values and the experiences that have shaped me into who I am today,” Ms Husseini said. “Meeting inspirational leaders from professional backgrounds reinforced the notion that anything is achievable if we take initiative.”

The diverse program provided participants with access to expert facilitators and opportunities to develop leadership skills, expand their networks, create pathways to further education and employment, and lead change in their community through sport. Highlights included a workshop on Coach, Leadership and Emotional Intelligence by Football Australia Junior Matildas Head Coach Rae Dower, a thought-provoking Women in Leadership – Representation Matters panel discussion and a Women’s Football fair Play Tournament held at UNSW’s Village Green.

A collaboration between Football United and Creating Chances 

For 16 years, Football United and Creating Chances have been developing and delivering community-based youth empowerment and sports programs to promote social inclusion and create leadership opportunities for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) youth, including refugees.  

Dr Anne Bunde-Birouste, the founder of Football United at UNSW said, “The University has been Football United’s host since our founding over 15 years ago. Our work to support diversity, positive youth development and to bring communities together through the power of football for good embodies the values and community engagement that UNSW considers core to its role as an institution.”

UNSW Director of Student Wellbeing Neil Morris has for many years partnered with Creating Chances and Football United on student and community engagement activities and was quick to offer support to this program.

“UNSW is a proud host of Football United and partner of Creating Chances. Their tireless efforts to support cultural diversity and bring communities together through the power of football for good embodies the values and community engagement that UNSW considers core to our institution,” he said.

“This program is beneficial to the girls and to our community because this is the first leadership program designed specifically for Afghan girls. I know many of the girls as natural leaders in the football community and this program would equip them with all the right tools, resources, support network and, most importantly, the confidence to be change-makers in their respective communities,” Football United Program Coordinator Shegofa Hassani said. 

Read more: UNSW partners with Pride in Sport

The leadership program is one component of the Arezo values-based women’s football project. Arezo means hope in Dari and it is a jointly developed project between Football United, Creating Chances and a group of Afghan-Australian women funded by Migration Council Australia. The program has been designed to focus on developing football skills and social and emotional learning, in particular, coping mechanisms, self-awareness and creating connections.  

The Arezo Program is part of a range of activities that Football United is running in the lead-up to the Festival23 during the Women’s World Cup in 2023. Find out more information or email hello@festival23.org.