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©Lars Møller

The IOC at the Women Deliver Global Conference: making the world a better place for everyone


Represented by an International Olympic Committee delegation led by Lydia Nsekera, the sports movement has been particularly active at the 4th Women Deliver Global Conference from 16 to 19 May in Copenhagen, in Denmark.  

The Women Deliver Global Conferences are the world’s largest global gathering to focus on the health, rights and well-being of girls and women. Based on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the UN in 2015 in the framework of its Agenda 2030, this 4th Conference has been focusing on how to implement the SDGs as they relate to girls and women, with a specific focus on health – in particular maternal, sexual, and reproductive health and rights – and the inter-connections with gender equality, education, the environment and economic empowerment.

In line with the objectives set in its Olympic Agenda 2020, which include the wish to promote gender equality, the IOC organised a side event on 18 May entitled “Giving women and girls a sporting chance” in collaboration with the Danish Olympic Committee (NOC) and in the presence of IOC Member HRH Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, to demonstrate the essential role played by sport and physical activity in promoting a healthy lifestyle, a vital part of achieving gender equality, and highlight the role the Olympic Movement can play in achieving the Agenda 2030 SDGs. 

The event naturally began with some sport! A gymnastics lesson was given to the more-than 200 participants in one of the big halls of the Bella Centre in Copenhagen. Early in the morning, everyone did some rhythmic dancing, including Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, who was there to support the event. Lydia Nsekera, an IOC Member since 2009 and Chair of the Women in Sport Commission, recalled that she and Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark had both been elected as IOC Members at the Bella Centre during the 121st IOC Session in October 2009. 

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Niels Nygaard: “Sport can break down barriers” 
Danish NOC President Niels Nygaard gave the introductory speech, emphasising that “Sport can break down barriers. It has the power to change the world. Women also have this power! We are here because we want to improve the situation for girls and women around the world. We want to fast track development for them with a specific focus on health, rights, gender equality, education and economic empowerment. Because right now too many girls and women do not have opportunities within these areas. And we have to make this right. 

Sport can break down barriers. It has the power to change the world. Niels Nygaard Danish NOC President
“At the IOC and in the broader sporting community we want to help make the important change. I believe that we in Denmark can help by showing some good examples. Did you know that women are actually more active in sport than men are in this country? In the National Olympic Committee and Sports Confederation of Denmark, we want to help take responsibility and we want to do it in a close partnership with the IOC and all of you here today.”

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Frederik of Denmark: “Excellence - Friendship - Respect. These are Olympic values.”

“Many exceptional women and girls have inspired and changed the world. They have accomplished great results and have become generational role models. Also in the world of sport,” Crown Prince Frederik added. He cited the example of swimmer Inge Sørensen, who competed in the 1936 Summer Games at the age of 12. When she returned home with a bronze medal, the Danish people went wild in celebration, and her success led to a boom in women’s swimming.  He also referred to Mette Jacobsen, another Danish swimmer, who had won 36 Championships and World Cup medals and participated in five Olympic Games. “These two highly regarded athletes are but a few of the many women who have inspired young girls to follow their lead, and pursue their life’s dream.”   

“The IOC strongly supports the UN Development Goal number 5 – achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls,” Crown Prince Frederik continued. “This is also why the IOC has a specific programme that supports women. Some of the focus areas are: encouraging women in sport at all levels; a leadership training programme; and a variety of mentor programmes that help empower women.”  

In the IOC we strive for excellence, friendship and respect, regardless of gender, religion and ethnicity. That is what the Olympic Games are all about. Frederik of Denmark IOC Member
“Through physical activity we can break down barriers in schools, at the workplaces, in homes and many other places. In the world of sports we do it every day, by providing a framework of equal terms for men and women, for boys and girls. In the IOC we strive for excellence, friendship and respect, regardless of gender, religion and ethnicity. That is what the Olympic Games are all about.” 

Frederik of Denmark concluded by quoting Maya Angelou, an important woman in the American Civil Rights Movement: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
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Lydia Nsekera: “We are all teammates with a cause.” 
After thanking Crown Princess Mary for her presence and support, Lydia Nsekera addressed the participants. “As Chairwoman of the IOC Women in Sport Commission, I would like to thank particularly the organisers of the 4th Women Deliver Global Conference for having invited the IOC to be part of the Conference,” she said. “It is an honour and a real pleasure to be with all of you for the first time. This is the illustration of the growing place sport plays in our society, as well as the IOC’s commitment to gender equality over the last 20 years, which was reaffirmed recently through Olympic Agenda 2020.”

There is evidence that sport can help to enhance girls’ and women’s health and well-being, foster self-esteem and empowerment, facilitate social inclusion and integration, challenge gender norms and provide opportunities for leadership and achievement. Lydia Nsekera IOC Member
She continued: “With a theme focused on how to implement the SDGs as they relate to girls and women, this Conference is perfectly aligned with how the IOC can help to advance efforts to achieve the SDGs. There is evidence that sport can help to enhance girls’ and women’s health and well-being, foster self-esteem and empowerment, facilitate social inclusion and integration, challenge gender norms and provide opportunities for leadership and achievement. 

“However, for sport to truly contribute to effective and sustainable change, it requires commitment, cooperation and partnership among governments, international and non-governmental organisations and individuals. This is why we are all gathered here today. We will share and learn from our respective experiences about how to give more opportunities to women on all the fields of play and life. We are all teammates with a cause that will improve lives and make the world a better place for everyone.” 
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