NEW DELHI: FIFA's head of women's football development Arijana Demirovic inaugurated the U-17 Women's World Cup legacy initiative, referee education scholarship programme on Saturday.
Demirovic was accompanied by 32 female participants and All India Football Federation secretary general Shaji Prabhakaran.
The tournament is set to be held in the country from the 11th of October to the 30th of October.
"It is imperative that the development of football be encompassing. The FIFA U-17 World Cup is already encouraging female participation at the grassroots through its legacy initiative, the coach education scholarship programme, and the referee education scholarship programme is another key step towards equal representation," said Arijana.
"As women's football is developing the world over in terms of viewership at the elite level and participation at the grassroots, it is only natural for the next step to be an increased number of female referees.
"We are, thus, very pleased with this initiative and believe it will leave a positive footprint in the ecosystem of Indian football," she added.
Prabhakaran noted: "Development of women's football and increased representation are key areas of focus for holistic growth of football in India. The Referee Education Scholarship Programme is a step in that direction.
"The 32 candidates of this programme are representative of the huge pool of women within the current ecosystem who are up and willing to pursue a career in football.
"We believe that such initiatives will inspire more women to be actively involved in football. With an increase in female referees – and coaches – female participation at the grassroots is bound to increase."
The programme is designed to produce qualified Indian referees at all levels for domestic and international competitions, and promote refereeing as a career.