Crossposted from UN Women.
Stephan Fox has lived in Thailand for 15 years. He is the Vice President of the World Muaythai Council, the General Secretary of the International Federation of Muaythai Amateur (IFMA). Muaythai is a sport in which fair play, respect and honour are important values. Mr. Fox is also the President of the Alliance of Independent Recognized Members of Sport and Council Member of SportAccord, the umbrella organization for all (Olympic and non-Olympic) international sport federations. Since 2014, he has been working with UN Women to promote gender equality and raise awareness on ending violence against women and girls.
Why do you support the fight against gender-based violence?
For me, beside the hardship, the suffering and the tears that we see and don’t see, violence is a barrier for development in every way. Being part of a world-recognized sporting federation brings with it serious responsibilities. Sport has a unique power to inspire, unite people regardless of their age, gender, geography or culture. It gives an opportunity to work for something larger than yourself. I see it as my duty to raise awareness and speak up to end violence against women and girls, using sport.
What makes muaythai a good platform to promote gender equality?
Muaythai is based on the foundation of respect, honour and fair play. Our athletes are role models who inspire others. We encourage our champions and our coaches to share the message of gender equality and zero tolerance to violence, not just in words but by modeling these values in their own lives. Another important concept that’s part of muaythai is “giving back.” I remember when I won my first trophy as a young boy, my coach told me, “Enjoy the moment of glory and what sport is giving you, but remember the real trophy that no one sees is what you give back.” The values and traditions of muaythai make it a perfect platform to spread the message of gender equality, respecting women and not condoning any violence against them. There are some 200,000 coaches and millions of people practicing the martial art of muaythai around the world. The opportunity to change mindsets and behaviours is too important to miss.
How is the International Federation of Muaythai Amateur (IFMA) taking action to combat violence against women and girls?
We believe that the most important asset in our sport is the youth and the athletes. We must foster and guide them and at the same time listen to them, to make sure that the things we may have done wrong, will not be repeated. The best way to end violence against women is to shape a future that rejects the very notion. This is why IFMA’s unified education programme includes “Fair Play”, a mandatory training developed by UN Women for coaches on gender equality and ending violence against women and girls. We hope to engage over 200,000 coaches around the world through this training. We are also creating awareness about the issue by encouraging our champions to spread the message among their fans; our national federations are organizing workshops; and we are educating our coaches and other stakeholders at major events, giving out special awards for their engagement, and also collaborating with other sporting partners and organizations. Muaythai will continue to unite, leverage every possible resource and platform--television, social media, events, gyms and individuals—to spread the message.
The UN Secretary-General’s campaign UNiTE to End Violence against Women marks 25th of every month as “Orange Day”—a day of action to end this pandemic of violence. How will IFMA mark Orange Day?
For IFMA, every day is Orange Day. We believe that we must continuously educate, take measures to change attitudes and take steps towards a positive direction. We must do this methodologically and strategically. This is why we have set the opening of our Youth World Championship in Bangkok on 25 August. This is our day of hope and change, where 800 young people from all five continents will come together for a cultural and sporting exchange and where the orange flag will fly high, sharing our message of a future free of violence against women and girls.
What comes next? What are you looking forward to the most?
I am excited about the Fair Play manual that we developed together with UN Women. Recently we had a workshop and training on the manual in Sweden and it was such a great experience! Regardless of where the participants came from, all of them wanted to be part of this initiative, because giving back is very important for muaythai practitioners. We are also looking forward to expanding our advocacy activities during the annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign. Last year, a major event took place in Mexico with over 2,000 participants for this campaign. As this year marks the 88th birthday of his Majesty the King [of Thailand], and since we are under His Majesty’s patronage, we will organize a special event to mark this campaign in his honour, in Bangkok. We have also planned activities with our members across Europe, Asia, Oceania, North and South America.