Collage of impactful women including the three first female refs to referee the FIFA World Cup

Refs for Change




In 2022 and for the first time in history, female referees officiated the Men’s FIFA World Cup. An opportunity M.A.L.I. used to hijack the World Cup conversation and turn the spotlight from men to women.

Every time one of the female referees blew the whistle during a World Cup 2022 match to recognize the acts of men, M.A.L.I. tweeted in real-time to highlight women across the world who have pioneered and succeeded in other male-dominated fields. Using the visual language of football analytics, we highlighted the achievements of trailblazing women who would otherwise never get the world’s attention. Thereby, transforming whistles from calls for help to symbols of empowerment and turning female referees into heralds of change.

The Challenge

Although the MENA region has documented incremental progress, the pace is not fast enough to catch up to the rest of the world. Gender gaps are still prevalent within households and careers, and one in three women within the region have experienced or been at risk of experiencing physical or sexual abuse in their lifetime (Source: Plan International). With over a billion people tuning in to the FIFA World Cup online, the time to grab the centerstage for change was most apt for M.A.L.I. then.

The Solution

The campaign focused on grabbing the attention of young adults irrespective of gender who spent time on social media specially to debate over the football matches in real time. The end goal? Have them ponder over the impact their voice has, to bring change as a collective. M.A.L.I’s tweets ignited the spark for dialogue and the people took it forward.

Launched on the occasion of the ’16 days of activism against sex-based violence’ on December 2nd, M.A.L.I tweeted in real time about women’s empowerment exactly when the history-making female referees blew their whistles during the game to make the world’s biggest stars stop in their tracks or run again to score. This was done by using the visual language of football analytics, which camouflaged important facts about trailblazing women across the world. The tweets however served a larger purpose beyond spreading awareness. It also allowed the audience on Twitter to take part in a healthy social debate about women’s rights, sex-based discrimination and served as donation boxes to support the cause.

The Results

As Morocco advanced in the World Cup, so did this campaign. The tweets under the hashtag #RefsForChange became the most trending topic in Morocco and the 3rd most trending topic within the MENA region, right below #FIFAWorldCup and #Qatar2022. This came in through over 600 live tweets with 7.5 million retweets, shares, and interactions overall. Moreover, the campaign was featured in 120 media outlets in over 75 countries and received over 2.2 million dollars in earned media. 


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