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UN Women/Ryan Brown
22 Mar 2016
Women in Sport , IOC News

Nicole Hoevertsz at the UN: “Sport can help break down barriers and challenge gender norms”

In the framework of the 60th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York (CSW60), and following the side event co-organised by the IOC, the Brazilian government and UN Women on the theme of “2030 Agenda – the contribution of sport to achieve gender equality and end violence against women and girls”, Nicole Hoevertsz addressed the members of this Commission. 
An IOC Member since 2006 and a Netherlands Antilles Olympian in synchronised swimming, Nicole Hoevertsz represented the International Olympic Committee (IOC) at the United Nations (UN) and led its delegation taking part in CSW60. This important event was devoted to “Women’s empowerment and its link to sustainable development”, with more than 5,000 participants from governments, NGOs and international organisations all over the world making it a great success at the UN headquarters in New York. 

The IOC’s Olympic Agenda 2020 commitments 

Nicole Hoevertsz began by observing that CSW60 was being held just a few months after the adoption of the UN’s 2030 Agenda, which reaffirms the role of sport as an important enabler of sustainable development, and recognises its contribution to the empowerment of women, young people, individuals and communities. The IOC “not only actively accompanied but wholeheartedly supported” the 2030 Agenda, she said, stressing that its objectives would “never be achieved if women and girls are left behind”, and adding that “the IOC also believes that, without concerted and resolute efforts by key actors, our journey towards the 50-50 world we dream for will not be successful.” 

Comparing the objectives of the UN’s 2030 Agenda and the IOC’s Olympic Agenda 2020, Nicole Hoevertsz noted that one of the IOC’s main missions was “to encourage and support the promotion of women in sport at all levels based on the principle of gender equality”.  Listing the key points of Olympic Agenda 2020, she highlighted “the commitment by the IOC to work with the International Sports Federations to achieve 50 per cent female participation in the Olympic Games and stimulate increased women’s participation and involvement in sport by creating more opportunities for participation at the Games”. 

Male and female parity at the Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018

Nicole Hoevertsz stressed that the programme approved by the IOC for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires would for the first time see the same number of male and female competitors.

But much still remains to be done. “While recognising the progress made, the IOC fully admits that gender parity at the Olympic Games is not enough. We thus invest in bringing more women into sports leadership. The sports world, like other sectors, will need to double its efforts to tackle gender inequalities such as unequal political participation and other forms of discrimination.” 

Nicole Hoevertsz explained that the IOC has trained hundreds of women on five continents in leadership skills and in the ability to identify and dismantle areas of discrimination. It is creating a mentorship programme with iconic sports figures and female sports administrators; involving young female athletes in youth sessions at IOC World Conferences; and ensuring that both men and women are targeted in new system-wide outreach programmes. 

Eradicate all forms of violence 

“Sport also has an important role in the vital effort to eliminate and prevent violence against women and girls. Sport and its values are valuable tools to address and improve self-esteem, body control, leadership and assertiveness”, Nicole Hoevertsz continued, citing the IOC-led initiatives in Uganda, Panama, Venezuela and Kenya to encourage team sports and cooperation, particularly by organising training to discourage sexual and gender-based violence.  

She also referred to a project being run in Rio de Janeiro State for 2,500 girls aged from 12 to 14 in 50 schools, “to build young women’s leadership skills and improve their ability to influence decisions that impact their lives at all levels by spreading messages of non-discrimination, non-violence, girls’ empowerment and positive masculine traits among boys”. This pilot programme will then be rolled out nationally and internationally. 

“Sport can help break down barriers and challenge gender norms, not only on the field of play, but also in the workplace, at home, in schools and in other aspects of society. The IOC is committed to this effort and will continue to work within sport, and with partners outside sport, to promote the cause of gender equality and eliminate sexual harassment, abuse and violence”, Nicole Hoevertsz concluded. 
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