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Op-ed: Sport is a key driver of social change


Sport mobilizes and energizes the global community. He speaks a common language of aspiration and inspiration for young people. In our conflict and crisis-ridden world, it unites national barriers and cultural differences and helps teach participants the skills and resilience needed to move forward in life. Girls who play sports develop self-esteem, learn to overcome adversity and work as a team. They tend to stay in school longer, delay pregnancy and get better jobs. They develop leadership skills that can propel their career to the highest level.

Commenting on the unifying power of the Olympic Games, IOC President Thomas Bach said: “If sport today can play a role in society, it is precisely in strengthening areas of cooperation for peace between nations. In this way, sport can give all of us, and especially young people around the world, hope for a better and more peaceful future.“

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has long stood for unity in diversity, as underlined by its new motto “Faster, Higher, Stronger – Together”. I welcome the IOC’s Olympism 365 strategy which intentionally reinforces the role of sport as an important catalyst for the SDGs.

Since 2015, UN Women has worked to advance gender equality in and through sport with the IOC, through three interrelated strategies: 1) supporting girls to participate in and benefit from sport; 2) policy changes to promote and institutionalize gender equality in sport; and 3) harnessing the global platform the Olympic Games provide for role models to inspire this generation and future generations to understand that “if you can see it, you can be it”.

Our joint and evolving program, “One Victory Leads to Another,” teaches both sport and life skills to girls in vulnerable communities. A legacy of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games, the program and its online course empower girls to become agents of change in their families and communities.

This is just one of the ways that UN Women and the IOC are working hand in hand to prevent and combat violence against women and girls, supporting the education of girls and communities on how to to recognize and combat violence. I also welcome and encourage the efforts of the IOC to protect sport more broadly at the Olympic Games and in the Olympic Movement.

At the global policy level, in 2021, UN Women and the IOC launched the Sport for Generation Equality Principles to harness the power of the sport ecosystem to deliver the unfinished business of gender equality. and SDGs. The Principles have been incorporated into Olympic Agenda 2020+5 and are accompanied by the Guidelines for Gender-Sensitive Sports Organizations as a tool for practical implementation.

Having the voice of women at the decision-making table in sport is crucial. It is a fundamental prerequisite for advancing policies and investments that promote and institutionalize gender equality. President Bach paved the way for the IOC by appointing an equal number of women and men – for the first time – to his 546 IOC commission positions in September 2022. A record 41% of commissions are chaired by women in 2022, compared to 26.6% in 2014. This is an essential precedent for others to follow.

It was thanks to committed leadership at the IOC that the Tokyo 2020 Olympics were the most gender-equal Olympics in history, with women making up 49% of athletes, men and women carrying flags together Nationals in the Olympic Stadium for the first time. In another first, all 206 competing nations had at least one woman on their teams, and there were more women’s events – and therefore more female Olympic medalists – than ever before. The games projected a clear image of women’s equality and the solidarity between men and women to achieve it. This is a resounding precedent that I hope to see repeated in Paris in 2024. The fact that more women ascend the Olympic pedestal has a huge global influence on popular culture and public perception, helping to generate a virtuous circle of improved perceptions of women, in all their diversity. This in turn can contribute to changes in public policy and support our goal to challenge and change harmful social norms that are the root causes of gender inequality.

Although there is momentum for change, there is still much to do. We celebrate significant advancements in the world of sport, but its full potential as a driver of gender equality has yet to be realized. Male dominance in sport continues to manifest itself in biases against women and girls and inequities in terms of pay, investment, leadership, media presence and barriers to the participation of women and girls. girls on an equal footing.

So let’s work as a team to make that clear. Sport is an unparalleled asset to help us end all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls and ensure women’s full and equal participation in leadership and decision-making. There can be no higher goal and greater victory for all of us.

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