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Harnessing the Power of Sport to Address Gender-Based Violence discussed at the United Nations in Geneva

30 June 2014
UN Special Adviser, Mr Wilfried Lemke with panellists.

Geneva (UNOSDP) - In Geneva, the Sport for Development and Peace International Working Group raised the topic, ‘Harnessing the Power of Sport to Address Gender-Based Violence’. Leading experts from around the world gathered to discuss and lead the movement to ensure participants safe participation in sport and in society.

UN Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, Mr Wilfried Lemke, was joined on the panel by Co-Chairs Ms. Tove Paule from the Norwegian Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Confederation of Sports and Dr. Bernardus Van der Spuy from the Ministry of Sport and Recreation, South Africa.

“It is very encouraging to have so many stakeholders involved in such an important international topic. I look forward to reviewing the policy recommendations that will be produced at the meeting and for the elections of the thematic groups of the SDP IWG,” the UN Special Adviser highlighted in his opening remarks.

First to address the audience was Ms. Tine Vertommen, a researcher from the University of Antwerp, Belgium. Tine’s presentation outlined the definitions used to describe different types of Gender-Based Violence (GBV). Tine took the time to detail the current available data that is relevant to this topic, and provided an extensive overview of GBV in sport.

Ms. Anne Tiivas, Director NSPCC Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU), UK, took this opportunity to detail their holistic, multi-agency approach and initiatives to protect children, young people and adult athletes in sport. Anne encouraged all decision makers at the policy level that “there is a need for action”.

Ms. Irina Japharidze, Project Manager on Ending Violence against Women, UN Women Georgia, presented the work that is ongoing in Georgia in response to the UN Secretary-General’s campaign that aims to raise public awareness and increase political will and resources for preventing and ending all forms of violence against women and girls in all parts of the world. Rugby, a popular sport in Georgia, is being used to raise awareness of violence against women and girls. The Georgian National Rugby Team promote behavioural changes amongst men and boys with regard to gender equality and violence against women and girls by using the rugby players as positive social role models.

“The role of the media has been a crucial part of ensuring the success of the project, without the ongoing training of the media stakeholders, GBV would still incur the same and ongoing stereotypes within society,” outlined Irina.
Third to present at the event was Ms. Liza Barrie, Chief of Civil Society Partnerships, UNICEF. Liza took this opportunity to introduce UNICEF’s mandate, and also the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which guides UNICEF’s work. Liza introduced UNICEF’s global initiative that calls for an end to all forms of violence against children. End Violence against Children helps shine a light on the invisible horrors of violence and abuse that undermine the lives of hundreds of millions of children.

Thereafter, Ms. Bessie Malilwe Chelemu, Director of Sport, Ministry of Youth and Sport, Zambia, provided an overview of the work that is being conducted in the different regions of Zambia. She highlighted their implementation of dedicated resources dealing with violence towards youth, women and adults in and through sport. This included having set up a gender desk, developing and effecting a gender action plan, and working according to a multi-stakeholder delivery structure.
“We are taking the relevant steps to address this social issue. By attending meetings such as this, we empower governments with the education and network needed to take solid next steps.”

Final panellist, Dr. Niklaus Eggenberger, Executive Director Swiss Academy for Development (SAD), raised awareness of their intervention in South Sudan. He elaborated on their sport and play-based psychosocial program that has been implemented to help traumatised, distressed women close to the Ugandan border to better cope with daily challenges, most of them related to sexual and gender based violence.

The second half of the day was dedicated to group discussions aimed at agreeing upon policy recommendations for Governments both in the context of GBV in sport as well as for harnessing the power of sport to address GBV. The audience split into small groups, each with a specific sub-topic to focus on, and spent the afternoon in discussions on how best to process the information presented during the morning session into relevant recommendations.

You can photos from this event here.


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