Sierra Leone women’s international Rashidatu Kamara says she can now achieve her dream of getting a college degree following a pay boost.
Kamara and her international team-mates will now be paid the same as players in the men’s national team.
The commitment to equality has been made by the Sierra Leone government and covers appearance fees and winning bonuses.
The new measures have even been backdated for the women’s team who have been paid $2,000 each for participating in this year’s maiden West African Football union (Wafu) Zone A tournament on home soil.
“I didn’t believe when I received it, It was indeed unbelievable. I have never before received such amount of money in my life,” she enthused to BBC Sport Africa.
The 21-year-old, considered as one of the star players of Sierra Leone women’s senior national team, already has plans for her first payment.
“I’m delighted that we’re now having equal pay with our male counterparts,” the converted left back who won the 2019 Liberia top flight league and FA Cup with Earth Angels told BBC Sport Africa.
“I have diploma in banking and finance and I’m hopeful that I’ll now earn more money to achieve my dream of having a college degree which will help me to plan my life after football.
“Having equal pay is what we’ve been hoping for, this is welcoming news and I want say thanks to our government and the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA).
“I believe it will motivate all female players in the country to do more. It’ll also encourage parents to allow their girls to play football.
Her sentiments were echoed by Martha Conteh, who captained Sierra Queens at the Wafu Cup
“It was unbelievable (to get the $2,000). I have never before received such amount of money in my life,” she explained.
“This is a welcoming news. I’m happy and I want to say thanks to the government and SLFA.”
“It will motivate all female players in the country to do more. It will also encourage parents to allow their girls to play football.”
Sports minister Ibrahim Nyelenkeh says his government’s decision to harmonise payment for senior national teams is to improve the women’s game, and give equal treatment to all.
“We decided to harmonise match appearance fee so that we can see how best we can motivate the female footballers to develop the women’s game,” he told BBC Sport Africa.
“The female footballers have been left out for far too long.
“The male and female teams are serving the same purpose so I don’t see any reason for us to pay the female team less.
“It’s never too late because we’ve been working on it, the policy doesn’t have to come within twinkle of an eye, and it’s a process, that’s why we’re here today.”
“The SLFA played great role in putting together the policy because they’ve been dealing with these players.
“We as a ministry are responsible to pay the players, but we don’t work in isolation. We sat down with the SLFA and worked out the whole policy.”
The minister also hopes the move to equal pay will serve as an incentive to develop women’s football and see a growth in the number of players.
“This is a huge boost and motivation for female football in Sierra Leone,” he insisted.
“In fact this a challenge we’ve thrown to the female footballers – you must prove yourself before you’re called up to the senior national team.
“I know players will now put more efforts in their game to fight for place in the national team, they’ll have to prove their mettle to be called upon.”
“For now the policy is only meant for the two senior national teams. We’re on it for the other categories of national teams when once we complete we’ll make it known.”
The Sierra Leone Football Association’s head of media and marketing Ibrahim Kamara says the policy is a step in the right direction
“This is a welcoming news and a step in the right direction,” he told BBC African Sport.
“It’ll help a lot to inspire the girls. This is a clear indication that the Sierra Leone government is not only determined to improve sports in country, but also determined to uplift the female category of the game to be at par with men’s football.”
The Sierra Leone women’s team will now be hoping that they can continue to play regular international football.
This year’s Wafu tournament was their first competitive match for ten years and it saw them exit in the group stage on home soil after three draws with Cape Verde, Guinea and Senegal.