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19 May 2015
Women in Sport , IOC News

Doha media workshop calls for commitment to lead the change in women’s sport

If gender equality on the sports field is almost achieved, this is far from being the case when it comes to the media coverage of women’s sports. The key role that the sports media should play in gender equality was one of the main issues debated during a media workshop on women in sport held in Doha (Qatar), which concluded with a call to action to the Olympic Movement and the world of sport and the media to lead the change in women’s sport.

Jointly organised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) and the Qatar Olympic Committee on 15 and 16 May, the workshop brought together some 113 women and men from 68 countries, representing National Olympic Committees (NOCs), Continental Associations, international organisations as well as the sports media and business worlds.

In her message, Lydia Nsekera, Chair of the IOC Women and Sport Commission, underlined:

“It is a shame that, more often than not, the coverage, marketing and promotion of women’s sport is based on gender. It is unacceptable that female athletes are defined by their body type or their beauty, to the detriment of their athletic or leadership qualities. […] May I ask you, each of you concerned, to go back determined to promote and popularise women’s sport and to make a firm commitment to ensuring an increase in women’s coverage in the media? And, above all, to provide a non-discriminatory image of female athletes in the media? By working together, the media, politicians and sports officials, as well as other partners, we will be able to redress the balance! […] Dear media friends, on behalf of the women in the Olympic Movement, I ask you to help us win this battle.”

After two days of panel sessions and discussions on a range of subjects associated with the efforts to strengthen women’s representation in the sports media and in leadership positions, the delegates issued a call to action in a unanimously approved “Doha Declaration”.


Among the action points contained in the Declaration, the participants called for the IOC, the Continental Associations and the NOCs to promote media training sessions to raise the media’s awareness about the importance of promoting gender equality; and for the IOC and the International Federations to undertake regular research and share their results on media coverage of women’s sport, to facilitate the necessary change in stereotype portrayal. They also called on the AIPS to establish a minimum target of women’s representation on the executive committees of National Sports Press Associations, and on media organisations to provide equal opportunities for female journalists. For their part, the NOCs are encouraged to establish gender-balanced media commissions, and to include women’s promotion in their remit. ANOC is also requested to take the lead and table these recommendations to NOCs during its forthcoming General Assembly in Washington.

Among the high-profile speakers were the President of the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA), Intendant General Lassana Palenfo;  Sheikh Saoud Bin Ali Al-Thani, Vice-President of the Qatar NOC; the Secretary General of ANOCA, Thomas Sithole; the UN Women Regional Communications Manager for Arab States, Emad Karim; IOC Women and Sport Commission member Donna de Varona; BBC Sport Chief Advisor Neil Land; and Australian Broadcasting Corporation News radio presenter Tracey Lee Holmes; as well as promising young Qatari hurdler Mariam Farid, who wants to be Qatar’s first female sports presenter after her athletics career.

Speaking at the end of the workshop, Alham Al-Mana, President of the Qatar Women’s Sport Committee (QWSC) and recipient of the 2013 IOC Women and Sport Award World Trophy, underlined that “this workshop really brought to light the factors and challenges that we all face in increasing coverage of women in sport; and in just two days in Doha, significant strides were made by a movement focussed on change. It is clear that the Olympic family, the business world, key decision-makers and the media need to work together, take concerted and relentless action and be champions for women in sport in order to speed gender equality.”

Read the full text of the Doha Declaration here.

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