I started It’s a Penalty because I met 16 year old Rose, on the streets of Recife, North East of Brazil, in 2013. At that time, I was CEO of Happy Child International, an organisation I founded 25 years ago in Brazil to rescue, rehabilitate and reintegrate children in street situations. Since Rose was 11, she had been exploited on the streets. When we met during a night walk Happy Child were conducting on the streets of a marginal neighbourhood in Recife, Rose and many other young girls were out, working and looking for clients. As we talked, Rose explained that many of their clients came from all over the world, and, although she had resigned herself to a life of abuse and exploitation, she wanted others like her to be able to escape. At the time, Brazil was the focus of international attention with the World Cup commencing, and the high influx of people attending the event meant that vulnerable children and young people like Rose would be at an even greater risk of exploitation.
I believed that the thousands gathering together could be used as a force for good, and so launched It’s a Penalty to seize the opportunity that these major events offer, utilise our global passion for sport and impact positive change.
To date, we have run the It’s a Penalty Campaign during 12 major sporting events, including the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, the 2016 Rio Olympics & Paralympics, the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics & Paralympics and four Super Bowls including the 2021 Super Bowl LV in Tampa – impacting an average of 180 million people worldwide per campaign.
Since our launch in 2014, It’s a Penalty has grown and expanded considerably. Alongside our Global Campaigns which harness the power of sport, It’s a Penalty now includes three additional areas of work addressing abuse, exploitation and human trafficking: CommonProtect, It’s a Penalty Student Ambassadors and Safe to Compete.
Our vision is for a world where every child and vulnerable person, regardless of their gender, nationality, sexuality, religion or ethnicity, can be protected from abuse, exploitation and human trafficking.
If we are serious about building a safer world for all, whilst giving voice to victims of these crimes, prevention needs to be at the top of the agendas of Governments, and the Private and Public sectors. By preventing these crimes, we are fulfilling part of our responsibility to protect the world’s most vulnerable from violence.
Sarah de Carvalho MBE
It’s a Penalty Campaign