UN campaign unites athletes against violence
The girls kick and twirl as they strike with their fists, elbows, knees and shins. As practitioners of “the art of eight limbs”—a martial art known as Muaythai—the girls discover not only the power of their own bodies but also how to be self-reliant and protect themselves.
Muaythai is an increasingly popular sport in Asia and elsewhere—and a channel to reach both young men and women with messages about gender equality and building healthy relationships. To ensure these messages reach far and wide, the Secretary-General’s UNiTE campaign to End Violence against Women, managed by UN Women, has teamed up with the World Muaythai Council and the International Federation of Muaythai Amateurs to challenge harmful social norms that lead to gender-based violence.
In 2015, UNiTE advocacy focused on prevention of violence, and sport was but one entry point to connect to new audiences—whether at football matches in Somalia and marathons in Cambodia or through cycling in El Salvador and acrobatics in Morocco. Globally, UNiTE each year leads the increasingly well-known call to “Orange the World” during the 16 Days of Activism on Gender-based Violence from 25 November – 10 December. Last year, people in over 80 countries from all walks of life came out to express solidarity in ending violence against women through participating in marches, film festivals, performances and debates. A record 310 million social media users connected online in 2015, while media covered the events wherever they happened. UNiTE has produced a growing list of achievements in individual countries including the first men’s movement to stop violence in Georgia.
For Muaythai fighters a curriculum was developed in 2015 to teach them to speak out against violence as they travel around demonstrating the sport at clubs and gyms. World MAX champion Muaythai boxer Buakaw Banchamek took part in a public service announcement to stop sexual harassment. At the Muaythai Royal World Cup in Bangkok, a federation covering 23 other sports such as aikido and boxing signed a pledge to similarly promote gender equality and train coaches and athletes to prevent violence.