World Rowing introduced a new athlete-led safeguarding policy in 2019, which was driven by an awareness that its athletes needed more support when faced with harassment or abuse.
It has expanded on the policy by offering more education and awareness on safeguarding, and recently held a series of interactive webinars.
AC Chair Frida Svensson explains the culture of respect and openness they want to create and how they hope to raise more awareness in 2021 and beyond.
World Rowing’s design and implementation of a new safeguarding policy in 2019 was led by its Athletes’ Commission and the appointment of an athlete-centred safeguarding working group in 2018, which is responsible for developing policy and procedures, and is guided by an advisory group composed of experienced safeguarding volunteers from across the world.
Former AC Chair Lenka Dienstbach-Wech understood that changes were needed and wanted the process to be led by athletes, having recognised, through AC meetings, how many had experienced harassment or abuse or knew of someone who had. With the AC now led by Chair Frida Svensson, progress continues to be made in creating a safer environment for rowers.
In March 2021, World Rowing held a series of three interactive webinars for all rowing participants across its member federations, each of which featured a panel of experts. Topics included what safeguarding is and how to deal with it; the perspective of the athlete and coach in creating a safe environment; and practical guidance for member federations on developing policies and procedures.
AC members leading the safeguarding project
Frida explained that AC members built the foundations of the initiative and have been driving the safeguarding project forward since receiving external training in 2018 to support the design and implementation of the new policy. Awareness training modules have also been created and delivered to World Rowing Council members and newly introduced event safeguarding officers.
“Since 2018, safeguarding training has been available to all commission members at joint commission meetings. AC members and new safeguarding officers for events are inducted and supported in their role with a presentation by one or more of the safeguarding advisory group members,” explained Frida. “We also provide real-time support through video conferencing and WhatsApp.”
What’s more, Frida explained how the World Rowing Championships have been used as a platform to raise awareness on safeguarding within the athlete and coaching community, with the introduction of event safeguarding officers together with posters displayed around the venue highlighting the subject.
Steps in the right direction
Spreading awareness and offering education to the rowing community have been crucial, and Frida went on to explain that at the heart of their commitment to promoting an understanding of safeguarding is the want to “create a culture of respect and openness within the sport”.
In building on the success of its recent webinar series, the AC is now eager to hold athlete-only sessions and to include continental/regional delivery. It is also looking to add more resources to its safeguarding webpage, and to introduce live Q&As for athletes to speak freely among their peers, while it will continue to review and refine policies and procedures as it deals with new concerns and cases.
“There is a lot of work ahead of us, but we are very proud that we have come this far. We can see that member federations are implementing safeguarding policies nationally, which is a step in the right direction,” said Frida.
She added: “It’s all about creating safe training environments for athletes, coaches and staff members, not only for our present community, but for future athletes and rowers around the world. No one is alone or should be ashamed of speaking up and asking for help.”
It’s all about creating safe training environments for athletes, coaches and staff members, not only for our present community, but for future athletes and rowers around the world. No one is alone or should be ashamed of speaking up and asking for help.