Empowering girls through sports
The flame shot up bright against the blue sky of Rio de Janeiro, a perennial symbol of life and peace at the Olympic Games. In the hands of UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, it carried an extra message—of the empowerment of women and girls, and of a peace that includes living free from all forms of fear and discrimination. The event offered a moment to rejoice and reflect on the power of sports in galvanizing social change and gender equality.
Through a longstanding partnership between UN Women and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the 2016 Rio Games provided numerous opportunities to showcase this link. A chief example was the celebration of the “One Win Leads to Another” Olympic legacy programme. Developed jointly by UN Women, the IOC and Women Win, the programme is empowering 1,000 under-privileged girls in Rio de Janeiro, based on a model by Women Win covering 217,000 girls in 25 countries. During the Games, girls could go to 16 Olympic Villas to practise sport and attend workshops that imparted economic and leadership skills, conducted confidence-building exercises, and built awareness of health as well as steps to prevent and seek protection from violence.
Outside the Olympics, UN Women has harnessed the power of sports for women and girls through partnerships like the one with the Valencia Club de Fútbol. Collaboration on an innovative international workshop saw experienced gender advocates and skilled athletes working with sport associations to build a strong gender equality emphasis into football training programmes. Participants learned techniques to prevent violence against women and girls, and develop self-esteem and leadership skills. They are applying new knowledge through projects aimed at reaching at least 30,000 girls and boys by the end of 2019.