The role of sport in promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls through innovative partnerships was discussed today between senior representatives of the Olympic Movement, the United Nations, governments, the private sector, foundations, NGOs and academia in New York during a dedicated breakfast meeting. The event, which took place on the occasion of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Annual Ministerial Review, was co-hosted by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the United Nations Office for Partnerships in cooperation with the UN Office on Sport for Development and Peace.
First UN-IOC breakfast meeting
The breakfast meeting was the first of its kind since the IOC was granted UN observer status last October – a decision that paid tribute to the IOC’s efforts to contribute to the achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals. By using sport as a tool, the IOC and its partners implement various activities across the globe in fields such as humanitarian assistance, peace-building, education, gender equality, sustainability and the prevention of HIV/AIDS.
Sport as a driver for social change
“Sport helps empower girls and women because it changes attitudes. It helps women competitors realise their own potential and it helps others see them in a new light. When a woman athlete triumphs, she often becomes a role model for her family, her community or even her country,” said Anita De Frantz, IOC member and Chair of the IOC Women and Sport Commission during today’s meeting. She added: “Change in this area does not come easy. We need strong partnerships to ensure that more women and girls have access to physical activity worldwide. To make real progress, we need the cooperation of governments, educational institutions and the private sector.”
Together with Amir Dossal, Executive Director of the United Nations Office for Partnerships, Anita De Frantz led today’s breakfast meeting in order to promote sport as a tool to advance gender equality, which is the third of the UN Millennium Development Goals. Dara Torres, a five-time Olympic swimmer from the US who won a total of 12 Olympic medals and is also a mother, model, TV personality and motivational speaker, joined in the breakfast meeting as a living example of an outstanding female athlete who inspires women and girls worldwide. She said: "The Olympic Games have been a part of my life since I was 14 years old. Now at 43 as a mom and recent competitor I realise more than ever how the opportunity for women in sport has become one of my most important missions."
Wilfried Lemke, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace, said in his message: “Sport is a universal language and part of the culture of almost every nation. However, sport is often overlooked because not everywhere is it considered a suitable or desirable pursuit for women and girls, but rather a male domain. We have to address this challenge by being culturally sensitive while at the same time making clear that sport is a human right for everyone.” He added: “During this year’s ECOSOC High Level Meeting and other high level UN meetings, governments have the opportunity to stress the importance of gender equality in sport and through sport.”
About the ECOSOC Conference
The ECOSOC Annual Ministerial Review is currently bringing together Heads of State and representatives from a large number of countries for a five-day conference at the UN Headquarters in New York. The purpose of the Review Conference is to assess progress made towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and other goals on the UN agenda, while sharing new ideas and practices to best advance.
Anita De Frantz will have the opportunity to address the delegates on 2 July 2010.