Today, like the rest of the world, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Olympic Movement are celebrating International Women’s Day.
As part of efforts to increase possibilities for girls and women in sport both on and off the field of play, representatives from National and International Federations (IFs) and stakeholders from throughout the Olympic Movement are taking part in the first-ever IF Women in Leadership Forum, from 7 to 9 March in Lausanne.
The three-day Forum is exploring ways to bring more women into leadership positions at all levels of sport. The gathering, a joint initiative by the IOC and the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF), marks a further implementation of Olympic Agenda 2020, the IOC’s strategic roadmap for the future of the Olympic Movement.
Marisol Casado, IOC Member, ITU President and IOC Women and Sport Commission member, provided the opening remarks at the Opening Session of the Forum, while IOC Executive Board Member and IOC Athletes’ Commission Chair Claudia Bokel spoke on gender equality within the framework of Olympic Agenda 2020.
ASOIF Executive Director Andrew Ryan said: "ASOIF and the IOC believe that it is important to understand that the current issue is not only about women in sport but about women in leadership roles. The key word is leadership and one cannot measure the success of equality by pure participation figures, but by looking at the quality of these leadership positions held by women."
IOC President Thomas Bach is scheduled to give a welcome address Tuesday night at an International Women’s Day Celebration in Lausanne, which will feature a keynote speech by Michael Kimmel, a leading expert on gender studies and an advocate of engaging men to support gender equality. The event will also include panel discussions on “measurable actions to kick-start rapid change on the road to gender equality”.
This year, the United Nations has given International Women’s Day the theme: “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality.” This is underlined in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted in 2015, in which sport was mentioned as an important partner for sustainable development, as UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said in this video message:
The IOC has been working with UN Women for many years to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment through sport. This partnership is a concrete example of how sport can help break down barriers and challenge gender norms, not only on the field of play, but also in decision-making bodies, the workplace, at home, in schools and in other areas of society.
President Bach was named a HeForShe by UN Women in 2015 and has, together with thousands of men and boys around the world, joined this solidarity campaign that fights for gender equality and women’s rights.
“Gender equality is not a women’s issue; gender equality is a human right of profound importance to everyone on earth,” President Bach says in his HeForShe message. “Sport is a powerful platform to foster gender equality and empower women and girls both on and off the field of play. This is a key mission of the International Olympic Committee.”
Another example is the UN Women project in Rio de Janeiro State in Brazil, which the IOC has supported financially. Entitled “One Win Leads to Another”, the project will target 2,500 girls aged 12-14 and will use a series of sports programmes to build young women’s leadership skills and improve their ability to influence decisions that impact their lives at all levels.
On 17 March, the IOC, UN Women and Brazil will team up again to deliver a side event called “2030 Agenda – the contribution of sport to achieve gender equality and end violence against women and girls” at the 60th UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York. The event aims to position sport as an effective enabler to eliminate all forms of discrimination, including violence against women and girls; empower women and girls; and achieve gender equality. It is also designed to highlight and promote the importance of partnerships between governments, UN agencies and the sports world within the framework of implementing the SDGs.
Fostering gender equality and strengthening women’s participation in, and through, sport is one of the key missions of the IOC. Over the years, the IOC has observed that women’s participation in the world of Olympic sport has grown steadily thanks to the IOC’s constant action, in cooperation with IFs and NOCs.
With the adoption of Olympic Agenda 2020 in December 2014, the IOC reaffirmed its commitment to work with IFs and NOCs as well as various regional, national and international platforms, to increase the possibilities for girls and women in sport, and to achieve the goal of women representing 50 per cent of the athletes taking part in the Olympic Games.