By Ben Henderson
AT A time when the equal representation of female footballers has been subject to scrutiny, it is fitting that Dulwich Hamlet is promoting women’s causes off the field.
Those at Hamlet’s game against Dartford a fortnight ago may have noticed a smattering of purple shirts and scarves among the crowd. The exclusive design reflects the colours of the Suffragettes in celebration of International Women’s Day, which took place last Friday (March 8), and the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, which first gave women the right to vote.
The proceeds from the shirt and scarf sales will go towards two campaigns supporting female causes: the Red Box Project and a Women in Football campaign, the details of the latter which will be released at a later date.
Furthermore, the club is continuing to support the On the Ball campaign as it has done throughout 2019.
Mel Hughes, DHFC Supporters’ Trust board member, told me all about the initiatives.
Since returning to Champion Hill, female fans may have noticed that Dulwich now provide free sanitary items in the toilets. The club has been working with On The Ball (@OnTheBaw) who campaign for free sanitary products at football grounds and Dulwich Hamlet are one of 68 clubs who’ve joined this scheme, with Manchester City the latest to sign up. The products are provided by the Dog Kennel Hill Sainsburys.
On the Ball is complemented by the Red Box campaign, which stocks a red box filled with sanitary products, spare pants and tights at both primary and secondary schools. The project aims to ensure that no woman in Southwark has to deal with the stress and worry – whether for financial or social reasons – of not being equipped for their period.
The campaign has drop-off points at local businesses where members of the public can provide donations of sanitary products. In East Dulwich one can donate at Rye Books, Goose Green Clinic and Punk Me Up Café. For those ignorant of period poverty, such as myself, Mel shed some light on the financial and social issues that can cause it.
“Quite often when we have food banks at the football club quite often a lot of female fans will donate female sanitary items. It’s one of those subjects that never really gets spoken about much, so I’m finding it quite liberating even at my age that we talk about it more with the other volunteers and at board meetings.”
Money will also go towards a Women in Football campaign. However, Mel cannot reveal any more on this project and tells those interested to “watch this space!”
Mel described the progress that is being made with regard to creating an inclusive environment for all off the field.
“There’s a few female campaign groups that have been trying to tackle period poverty. As part of the next budget, the government are going to provide funding for secondary schools. Progress has been quietly going on behind the scenes.
“I think much of the progress is to do with the fact that football clubs have more female fans nowadays. And interest in the female version of the sport is growing now that it’s on TV and they’re getting bigger crowds.”
Mel discussed why Dulwich in particular is such a hive for initiatives such as these.
“I feel genuinely proud of the fact that I have always been made to feel welcome at Champion Hill.
“It’s definitely to do with the catchment area. I’m from south Wales originally so I go to watch the local games down there and there’s not as many women there, it’s more of a male fan base. Sometimes men’s partners come but you don’t see groups of women. And it’s the same for other non-league clubs in England that I’ve gone to. So I do think it’s very unique here.”
The Hamlet fan also emphasised the importance of the local community getting behind these initiatives.
“I think it’s really important, because I know at the moment Red Box don’t have that much funding. They’re trying to go into more schools to offer the items and we’re also looking for more drop-off points. At the moment it’s not about donations of money, it’s more about raising awareness of the initiative.”
For those looking for a further taste of women’s football, on Sunday Dulwich Hamlet are hosting the South East Regional Women’s title decider between AFC Phoenix and Kent Football United. It’s free to get in and surely the perfect excuse for Hamlet fans to spend their entire weekend at Champion Hill, with the men’s side hosting Truro City on Saturday.