16 Days of Activism: Can Sport for Development fix it (all)?

  • More than 1 in 3 women experience gender-based violence during their lifetime.
  • More than 5 women or girls are killed every hour by someone in their own family.
  •  Less than 40% of women who experience violence seek help of any sort.

Think about all the women and girls in your life. Read these figures again. Let that sink in…

The COVID pandemic has exasperated violence against women, especially younger women aged 18-49. Women in rural areas, mothers, and unemployed women are most impacted by the pandemic compared to other women. This is why having an intersectional lens is essential. Women are not all the same.

Despite all these negative findings, research tells us that violence against women and girls is preventable…and this is where we come in. Sport for development (S4D) is an attractive and agile development tool. Through the S4D approach, you can address any topic that is relevant to your context. By creating safe spaces that are free from harm and acknowledging participants in all their diversity, S4D can address topics ranging from climate change and peaceful coexistence to gender equality and positive masculinity.

So, what does that actually mean and what does implementation look like? Through value-based exercises, children and youth can develop their social competences and are sensitized on gender equality and inclusion. Accompanying discussion sessions foster reflection amongst participants to further explore the conveyed topic and connect it to their daily lives. This process of reflecting to influence a change of mindset is exactly what is needed. And this is what we call a gender-transformative approach. It’s moving beyond the 50/50 gender split in training sessions. It’s no longer about ‘just’ equality but about equity. It’s about meeting the needs of each person and not ‘just’ providing an equal share of resources.

Think about your own experience. When you want to influence any kind of change, what do you need to consider? You need to start with yourself making sure that in your interactions with others e.g., you are not reproducing power imbalances, but rather challenging them. As part of a social group or community, you can either conform to or confront discriminatory norms. By being an advocate for change, you can challenge systems and structures.

Combating gender-based violence is not a women’s issue, it’s a societal issue. Women and girls need to know their rights, the resources they have available, and when they should seek support. Men and boys need to learn how to express their emotions, how to resolve conflicts peacefully, and how they can best support women and girls. Transformational change is a long process that can only be successful if we all play our part.

By Mariam Ibrahim