CSW59: The place of sport in women's empowerment

"Girls are born leaders. Sport gives them the opportunity to practice it." - M.Bobenrieth, #CSW59



Executive Director of Women Win, Maria Bobenrieth, spoke as a key panelist at the 59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women’s (CSW59) side event, “Looking Ahead - the place of sport for women’s empowerment post-2015”. The event, co-hosted by the International Olympic Committee and UN Women, also featured UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and U.S. Olympic gold medallist in figure skating, Michelle Kwan amongst others.

The lively discussion highlighted the opportunity of using sport to build leadership of women and girls. “It’s not always about the medals,” said Kwan. “Sport teaches lessons of persperverance….Falling down in front of millions of people made me more prepared for whatever life throws at me.”

Bobenrieth’s contribution focused on the importance of bringing girls and grassroots sport into the conversation of sport, gender and empowerment. She noted, “Girls are born leaders. Sport give them the opportunity to practice it.”

Several of the panelists highlighted how sport can help break some of the deeply entrenched stereotypes against women throughout the world. Mlambo-Ngcuka shared a personal testimony of how we can use sport to lift women’s rights in saying “I’ve seen it in my own life. A father sees his daughter playing sport and just like that, he changes.”

Expanding on the role that boys and men can play in this space, Nodar Andguladze from the Georgia Rugby Union spoke from his experience of using the platform of elite sport to address gender based violence. “I believe its our duty as sportsmen and role models to show that we don’t’ accept violence against women and girls.”

The discussion was not without contest. When asked about what governments' roles in women’s empowerment should be, Bobenrieth highlighted the recent missed opportunity by not explicitly including any mention of sport or physical activity in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or 169 indicators and targets. Specifically she called to action the need to find a collective voice to address this moving forward.

The full webcast of the event can be viewed below.