Sport promotes gender equality

Press release, 08.03.2017

International sports federations pledge to support gender equality at the Palais des Nations on International Women’s Day on 8 March.

Several international sports federations have decided to step up their commitment to promoting gender equality and have announced that they intend to join the International Gender Champions network for the first time.  The heads of the International Federations for hockey, archery, university sports and equestrian sports, as well as the Director-General of the International Olympic Committee will each undertake three clearly defined and measurable commitments aimed at promoting gender equality over the coming year. 

At the invitation of Michael Møller, the Director-General of the United Nations Office in Geneva, and Ambassador Valentin Zellweger, Switzerland’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office and other international organisations in Geneva, no fewer than 22 international sports federations and 17 international organisations, as well as the International Olympic Committee, are attending the event on International Women’s Day. “As an International Gender Champion myself, I am delighted to see the genuine and broad interest shown by the International Sports Federations  in promoting gender equality in view of how powerfully sport can facilitate societal changes”, remarks Ambassador Zellweger. 

Gender equality is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and a prerequisite for the implementation of all of the others. We aim to achieve substantive equality by 2030 to shape more inclusive societies for the benefit of everyone. Sport can act as a driving force in this endeavour. The international sports federations can promote gender equality within their own sport and federation. Sport can also contribute to a broader development agenda. It can help to break down gender stereotypes, firmly establish values – such as respect and non-discrimination – and encourage positive models. It can also play a key role in preventative and action-oriented messages, such as fighting prejudices and changing attitudes and behaviour. Sporting projects allow communities to be reached which could perhaps not be influenced otherwise and enable gender equality to be tackled in a playful and non-political way. Sport can undoubtedly help to ensure “no one is left behind”, which is the objective of the Sustainable Development Goals. The wealth of expertise and capacity for action of the International Organisations in Geneva and the International Sports Federations in Lausanne is unique. They make the Leman Lake region a key operational platform for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals and a productive environment for developing new collaborative approaches. 

To widen its impact, Switzerland decided to launch in New York on the 20th of March 2017 the International Gender Champions initiative (www.genderchampions.org). Launched recently in Geneva, it aims to promote gender equality through the personal and direct involvement of senior figures at the International Organisations, Permanent Missions and Non-Governmental Organisations. Each champion will undertake three commitments over the coming year. This initiative hopes to create additional momentum to bring about major change in terms of gender equality. After a little more than a year of existence, this initiative counts nearly 130 champions. It is now time to broaden this network to new categories of actors, including the Heads of International Sports Federations.