By Demetris Constantinou, Contributor
The notion of women athletes is younger than most people believe as it was brought to birth at the beginning of the 20th century, with women participating in the Paris Olympic Games. The 1900 Olympics were a historic moment which acted as a benchmark for the development of women athletes and the debunking of the myth that sports are a male oriented matter. Since then, sports have always driven women’s battle against inequality through the formation of various organizations and initiatives at different levels and throughout all continents. In this article, we’ll reveal some of the world’s largest organizations which aim to empower women’s participation in sports and promote gender equality through sports.
Women’s Sports Foundation – https://www.womenssportsfoundation.org/
Women’s Sports Foundation is a US- based organization founded in 1974 by the famous Tennis legend Billie Jean King with the aim of “advancing the lives of women and girls through sports and physical activity”. Today, the organization strives to empower women and girls by giving them the opportunity to participate in sports, allowing them to unfold their leadership potential. Currently, women’s sports foundation focuses on financially supporting high-school girls as well as -women- college students in advancing their aspirations of becoming sports professionals. Furthermore, the foundation engages in pioneering research that brings to the surface issues faced by women athletes that nobody paid attention to, or nobody recognized ever existed. Two years ago, Women’s Sports Foundation published its research “Gender Bias and Coaches of Women’s College Sports”, comparing male and female coaches to women’s collegiate teams and bringing to the surface societal issues clearly depicted through the study. The foundation also takes initiatives in educating girls and women, by providing them with skills required to advance their athletic careers and be able to healthily compete in their sports. Last but not least, Women’s Sports Foundation actively advocates, through various channels, to advance Women’s rights and reduce inequality both on and off the sports field. In 2016, the foundation participated in a round-table meeting at the White House to advocate for women in sports and promote the foundation’s position: that action needs to be taken to ensure that everyone has equal rights when it comes to participating in sports.
Women Sport International – http://womensportinternational.org/
WomenSport International is a global organization established in 1994 with the aim of making sports and physical activity a priority in the lives of women to encourage positive change and develop opportunities. WomenSport International is primarily an advocacy organization which strives to increase the opportunities of women in the world of sports and encourage their involvement through the establishment of global partnerships and synergies. Amongst other, the organization conducts research on serious matters regarding women in sports and brings up important matters along with recommendations and strategies for change. By using its “Task Forces & Committees” the organization creates sub-groups which focus on specific matters such as Sexual Harassment faced by women athletes and creates more specific frameworks on how women can combat harassment and abuse and how lawmakers can enforce strict regulations to combat such phenomena. Through its large network, WomenSport International promotes key issues through high profile world organizations such as the United Nations to ensure that the issues faced by women athletes become a priority for policy makers. What differentiates WomenSport International is the large range of partners it collaborates with around the world. Its large network includes the International Olympic Committee Women in Sports Commission, country-specific organizations in all 30 countries it’s present at and global women advocacy groups such as Global Fund for women which supports women’s human rights for the past 32 years. Such a massive network allows WomenSport International to actively participate in decision making and bring positive change to the lives of millions of women.
Having mentioned the above organizations, it’s important to realize that there are thousands of initiatives all across the globe that aim to empower women in sports and promote gender equality through sport and physical activity. The most important thing though is not the amount of organizations that help women athletes but their effectiveness in the world-stage. The 2012 Brighton Declaration, which calls for an increase in the number of women at all sports levels, was a huge victory for all these organizations and the proof that they serve, and will continue to serve their purpose: to ensure that all women have the opportunity to participate in sports, in a safe and inclusive environment.