Inspiring change and advocating gender equality through sport
After celebrating inspirational role models on International Women’s Day on 8 March, Angela Ruggiero, Olympian, IOC member and Vice Chair of the IOC Athletes’ Commission, spoke at the United Nations 58th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women to emphasise the power of sport in defying gender stereotypes, promoting equal opportunities and empowering girls and women across the world.
The power of sport to empower women
“Sport breaks down barriers and challenges gender norms,” said Ruggiero. “Sport develops skills in management, negotiation and decision-making that empower women and girls to become leaders in the workplace, in the home and in all areas of community life. A survey of executive women found that 80 per cent played sports in their youth; 69 per cent said sport contributed to their professional success.”
She added: “The leadership talent of retired elite women athletes, with their inherent confidence, high standards, self-discipline and ability to overcome obstacles, has tremendous value for businesses, governments and non-governmental organisations.” Ruggiero also underlined the qualities of sport in building confidence, stating: “Sport builds self-esteem and helps women take control over their lives. It gives adolescent girls a sense of ownership and respect for their bodies.”
Alluding to the Olympic Games, Ruggiero said: “[They] play an important role in challenging gender stereotypes by providing a global platform for talented women athletes. Women have participated in the Olympic Games since 1900, often in defiance of gender norms. Some returned home as sports heroes.” However, the Olympian highlighted that the “IOC’s effort to use sport to promote gender equality and social development is not limited to the Olympic Games. It is a year-round global endeavour, often in conjunction with UN agencies and programmes.”
The importance of partnership
With just one year to go until the deadline set for the implementation of the United Nations (UN) Millennium Development Goals (MDG), the 58th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women is an important occasion to focus on shortages of the current MDGs in order to create new opportunities for the future; and to exchange views on the best ways to catalyse activities and resources in the post-2015 period in order to achieve gender equality in a more sustainable way.
Represented at the Session by Chairwomen of the IOC’s Women and Sport Commission and IOC Executive Board member, Anita DeFrantz; President of the Jamaican Olympic Association and member of the IOC Women and Sport Commission, Mike Fennell; and Angela Ruggiero, this event was also an opportunity for the IOC to demonstrate its commitment to achieving the MDGs, and particularly its efforts in promoting equal opportunities and women’s participation in all levels of the sporting world.
The IOC, which was granted UN Observer status in 2009, has developed a strong partnership with UN Women – the United Nations entity for gender equality and the empowerment of women – to ensure that girls and women engage in physical activities and sport throughout their lives, as well as with the other UN agencies in the fields of youth, peace-building, health, education, environmental sustainability and combating HIV/AIDS to mention but a few. In close cooperation with its partners in the Olympic Movement – International Federations, National Olympic Committees and Olympic Games Organising Committees – the IOC is more than ever committed to using sport to promote the UN MDGs across the world for and beyond 2015.
Learn more about the IOC’s activities and engagement to the MDGs