Women sports leaders needed
Participants in an international conference in the US called on officials to take a more proactive role in advancing the cause of women in and through sport. Inas Mazhar
reports from Los Angeles
The three-day conference, whose theme was 'Together Stronger: the Future of Sport', ended with over 800 delegates from 135 countries unanimously approving 'The Los Angeles Declaration', a series of recommendations aimed at promoting gender equality in sport and using sport as a tool to improve the lives of women around the world.
Organised jointly by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games, the conference featured high-level speakers from a variety of backgrounds. Among them were Chairman of the 2012 London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games Sebastian Coe, Marjon Kamara, chair of the UN's Commission on the Status of Women, and Geena Davis, Academy award winning actress and founder of the Geena Davis Institute in Gender in the media.
During the conference, the fifth of its kind, participants went through several topics associated with the efforts to strengthen women's representation in sport.
The topics focused on leadership views on women in the world of sport; partnerships for progress; setting the pace for a sustainable responsibility; women, sport and the media; government, legislature and attitudes; empowering women and girls through education; role models and leadership; the business of sport; and sport, peace and development.
The last plenary session was dedicated to youth to enable them to share their views on growing up in a gender-balanced sporting society.
A declaration focused on two main themes: the need to bring more women into management and leadership roles and the need to increase collaboration and partnerships, especially with UN organisations, to promote gender equality.
IOC President Jacques Rogge assured the conference delegates that the Olympic movement would act on the recommendations. "I can pledge and I can promise that we will do what is needed," Rogge said in his closing remarks.
The conference declaration acknowledged that the Olympic movement's steady progress towards gender equality on the field of play had not been matched in sports leadership positions. It called for more resources to support women in sports leadership roles and urged sports organisations to follow the IOC's lead by adopting policies to advance gender equality.
On the issue of collaboration, conference delegates urged the IOC to build on its work with the United Nations by establishing closer partnerships with UN Women and the UN Committee on the Status of Women. UN Women was established in 2010 to promote gender equality and women's empowerment.
"The potential for sport to contribute to the social, economic and political empowerment of women and girls is clear and has been recognised by governments, the United Nations system, civil society, the sports movement and others. Now is the time to act on this recognition and bring the benefits of sport to women and girls," Lakshmi Puri, deputy executive director of UN Women, told the conference delegates.
The 5th IOC World Conference on Women and Sport was attended by over 800 participants, the most ever.
It has been 31 years since the IOC opened its membership to women, and 17 years since it fully implemented programmes and processes for helping women to systematically access higher levels of sports administration and competition.
Since then, the number of female participants in sport has grown exponentially. The number of sports on the Olympic programme will have full male/female parity for the first time at the Games of the XXX Olympiad in London.
Many programmes have been put in place and resources committed to ensuring that women are trained and educated to stand for leadership positions. However, the number of women being elected has not increased at the same pace as their participation on the field of play.
Conference participants said more resources should be dedicated to developing women's skills in management and leadership. They said the IOC should revisit and review the minimum number of women to be included in leadership roles which it set for its constituents, and set up a mechanism to monitor and ensure that this minimum number is being respected. Recognising the importance of gender equality in sport, it was urged that each international federation should review its programmes for the Olympic Games and ensure that equality in participation is achieved.
The IOC and all the constituents of the Olympic movement, especially the NOCs, international federations and national federations pledged to ensure that, for the 2012/13 and all future election cycles, they achieve a more equitable representation on their executive committees.
They recognised that for these initiatives to be successful the support of men and women is required, the IOC's decision to link gender equality to good governance within the Olympic movement should be adopted as policy by sports organizations and widely publicized;
Among other recommendations:
There should be greater collaboration and cooperation between all organisations and institutions which support the promotion, rights and welfare of women and girls; that the promotion of women's participation in sports activities, recognising that for these initiatives to be successful, the support of men and women is required, the IOC's decision to link gender equality to good governance within the Olympic movement should be adopted as policy by sports organisations and widely publicised; that there should be greater collaboration and cooperation between all organisations and institutions which support the promotion, rights and welfare of women and girls; that the promotion of women's participation in sports activities, management and administration should, and must, serve the wider goal of supporting the international agenda of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls; that the IOC must leverage its historic achievement of Permanent Observer status to the United Nations to contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, especially as they relate to gender development and the empowerment of women; that the IOC should establish closer working partnerships with the UN and its agencies, especially UN Women, and share in the work of the UN Committee on the Status of Women in order to foster its own gender equality agenda. Similar partnerships should be established at local levels between national sports organisations, UN country teams and civil society; that the IOC and other international organisations dedicated to the cause should interact more closely with the Inter-Parliamentary Union in order for their message to reach, and be acted upon by, governments; and that the IOC should take the lead in establishing a platform for networking, thereby creating a place for exchanging and sharing ideas and good practices in the area of women and sport.
The 2012 Women and Sport Awards were presented on the opening day of the conference, with India's Manisha Malhotra winning the World Trophy for her commitment to helping disadvantaged girls progress through sport. The five continental winners were Peninnah Aligawesa Kabenge (Africa), the Bradesco Sports and Education Progamme and Centre (Americas), Zaiton Othman (Asia), Aikaterini Nafplioti- Panagopoulos (Europe), and Roseline Blake (Oceania).
Held every four years, the aim of the World Conference on Women and Sport is to assess the progress made in advancing the cause of gender equality within the Olympic movement and to define future priority actions to improve and increase the involvement of girls and women in this framework.
The winners of the 2012 Women and Sport Awards were recognised for their roles in getting more women involved in sport as athletes, administrators, leaders and as members of the media.
First introduced in 2000, the IOC Women and Sport trophies are awarded each year to recognise the efforts made by an individual or an organisation for outstanding achievements to encourage gender equity at all levels in the sporting world.
Meanwhile, there will be two new sports at the Games of the XXXI Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro. The IOC has ruled that any new sport must, as a condition for consideration to be included on the Olympic programme, have events for both men and women. Both rugby and golf will start their involvement in the Olympic Games in 2016 with equal participation of male and female athletes.