UNWomen Sport for Generation Equality Launch Event

At UNESCO, we are so proud to join this fantastic initiative on Sports for Gender Equality. The power of sports, and the power of us getting together to fight for gender equality is a real promise to support more sustainable, peaceful and healthy societies. 

Congratulations to friends from UN Women and for all the fantastic partners that preceded me.

We also come well prepared to support this initiative, and all of its principles, but particularly for principle 6, to ensure that we monitor and assess progress. We need to make sure that we live up to our commitments. We need change!

Gender equality is a strategic priority of UNESCO and it permeates all its programmes. It has been also a guiding light in my own personal and professional career, here in UNESCO, at the OECD, and at the G20.

And we have a track-record in the sports and equality agenda. With our Kazan Action Plan which has gender equality as an important objective. With our Intergovernmental committee for physical education, and our Ministerial Meetings on Sports, which also focus on equality.

Let me just share with you that the  UNESCO’s International Charter for Physical Education, Physical Activity and Sports, underlines the importance of universal access and gender equality in and through sport, providing that [quote]

“equal opportunity to participate and be involved at all supervision and decision-making levels in physical education, physical activity and sport (…) is the right of every girl and every woman that must be actively enforced” [unquote].

This is all the more important in the COVID context, where our vulnerabilities have been exposed, with the impact on women and girls way higher than on other groups. Sports have also been widely affected.

So the agenda that gathers us today are essential for a balanced recovery.

We should set our objectives high. We must envisage a world where statistics on the 100 best paid athletes will include more than only on woman and where media time for women’s sport raises from the generally observed 10%.

A world in which abuses of women and girls in sport are no longer an issue. I am in Paris, and I dream of a world that celebrates the gold medal of the lyon female football players the way they celebrated the males semifinal.

Sport for girls is important because it brings girls out of their homes and provides autonomy and self-confidence, helps shatter gender stereotypes, increases mobility, expands social networks, builds leadership, agency and skills sets, while significantly improving health.

As Mbali’s efforts have shown, the outcomes for girls’ engagement in sports are reduced school drop-out rates, delayed marriage and childbirth, enhanced aspirations and employability, to name just a few.

The visual power of girls claiming public spaces at par with their male counterparts has a long-term cascading impact of social mind sets, while changing the narrative in favor of gender equity.

 We have also additional good news for achieving principle no 6: UNESCO and Switzerland are making progress for the establishment of a global observatory for women, sport, physical education and physical activity.  That will certainly contribute to our goals today.

The Observatory will:

Connect and Convene as a space for coordinated efforts between stakeholders to promote women in sports

Guide and Advise major actors in conducting sector analyses and creating action plans for gender equality in and through sport.

Produce evidence and evaluation methodologies as well as conduct independent monitoring of gender equality and sport commitments.

Gathering disaggregated data for in-depth research;  evidence-based advocacy, policy, decision making and resource allocation is essential to achieve change in the world of gender equality.

At UNESCO we have also launched a world-wide survey on quality physical education provisions in schools. The Survey includes specific questions related to equality in school physical education programmes for girls and for boys.

We also put at your service our recently launched sports education partnership Fit for Life that promotes values in sports education, advocates the transformative potential of leading an active life, promotes value-based learning, and emphasizes physical activity to overcome isolation and mental illness.

The world is currently at work on response, resilience and recovery plans. However, the impact of COVID-19 on women and girls in sports has yet to be well studied, and should gain a bigger space in the budget allocation of the massive fiscal programs that our countries have put together to survive the pandemic.

There are so many areas in which we need to impact Women and girls must be equally participants and leaders in the process of building back better, so their gains are not lost, and a better future for all becomes a reality. Count on UNESCOs Social and Human Science Sector to contribute to this.

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