IOC, UN Women renew partnership to empower women and girls through sport

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UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach have renewed their commitment through a second Memorandum of Understanding, laying out the vision for the next five years of partnership, which will empower women and girls through sport and increase women’s leadership and gender equality. (IOC | Greg Martin)

After five years of successful collaboration on women, girls and sport, the UN Women and International Olympic Committee (IOC) recently renewed their commitment through a second Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). Laying out the vision for the next five years of partnership, the MoU will empower women and girls through sport and increase women’s leadership and gender equality.

“Sport is an invaluable tool to equip women and girls with leadership skills, reduce marginalization and dismantle stereotypes, and I am excited to continue our strong relationship with the IOC,” said UN Women Executive Director and Under-Secretary-General, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

“Together we can bring substantive equality – a Planet 50-50 – to the world of sport at all levels,” said Mlambo-Ngcuka, former Deputy President of the “Rainbow Nation,” South Africa.

UN Women and the IOC share the same objectives of advancing gender equality in and through sport, in alignment with Sustainable Development Goal 5, and of empowering women and girls through the necessary skills and capacities to be agents of change in their communities and societies.

The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes sport as an important enabler of sustainable development, and in particular its growing and innovative contribution to the empowerment of women and young people, individuals and communities, as well as health, education and social inclusion objectives.

“Working together with UN Women, the IOC wants to empower women in sport and through sport. With this MoU, we will build on our efforts already underway to promote access to sport for girls and work towards gender equality. This is another step to extending this great partnership,” said IOC President, Thomas Bach.

In partnership with Women Win, the IOC and UN Women implemented “One Win Leads to Another,” an innovative joint programme to empower young women and girls through sport, as an Olympic legacy project of the Olympic Games Rio 2016.

Women Win has a history working with the United States Department of State, having developed a program aimed to provide opportunities for adolescent girls to empower themselves and exercise their rights to and through sport.

“The IOC is looking forward to continue working jointly with UN Women to advance gender equality, in particular through this One Win Leads to Another project, as it concerns the next generation of women,” Olympic Champion and IOC Member, Nawal Moutawakel said during the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Brazil.

One Win Leads to Another builds the leadership skills of adolescent girls through quality sports training; creates safe spaces for girls; and gives them tools and knowledge to break down social barriers and access services if experiencing violence.

Equipping participants with basic economic skills, the project gives an opportunity to adolescent girls living in socially vulnerable contexts to go to one of the 16 participating Olympic Villas to practice sport and attend a gender workshop that uses sport as a tool to reduce gender inequalities and build and maintain confidence.

“The program has been piloted in disadvantaged areas of Rio de Janeiro, and will continue under this partnership framework in Brazil and potentially in additional countries,” said Moutawakel, Vice-Chair of the Laureus World Sports Academy.

“As an athlete and a woman, I know something about the power of sport. I have seen it in my own life. Sport touched my life and totally changed it. It gave me strength and self-confidence to overcome many barriers in my life,” Moutawakel said.

A not-for-profit, independent international organization made up of volunteers committed to building a better world through sport, the IOC redistributes more than 90 per cent of its income to initiatives advancing the global Olympic Movement.

Every day, the equivalent of $3.4 million goes to help athletes and sports organisations at all levels around the world.

The next phase of the UN Women, IOC collaboration will contribute to the mainstreaming of sport and physical activity as a tool for girls’ and women’s empowerment, education and health. It will also facilitate women’s equal access and participation, resource allocation, and leadership with regard to public policies around sport and the international development agenda more generally.

“Through sport, girls and women build skill, strength, unity and determination,” said Mlambo-Ngcuka.

With the cooperation, the two leading organizations aim to encourage women and girls at grassroots level through sustainable sports programs, targeting in particular girls in vulnerable communities; and leverage the power of sport, including large-scale sporting events and athletes as role models, to change harmful gender-based stereotypes and norms.

“These are powerful assets for life; sport helps build their social, economic and political empowerment beyond the arena,” Mlambo-Ngcuka said.

“We value our strong partnership with the IOC and look forward with them to making a difference in the lives of young women and girls.”

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