IWG Update From UNESCO Conference, Baku

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IWG Secretary General Lisa O’Keefe reflects back on her attendance at the global MINEPS VII conference.

It was a real privilege to represent IWG Women and Sport last week at UNESCO’s seventh International Conference of Ministers and Senior Officials Responsible for Physical Education and Sport – also known as MINEPS VII.

Hosted in Baku, Azerbaijan, MINEPS VII brought together sports ministers and stakeholders from over 110 countries to define the future of the sport-for-development ecosystem. The IWG attended the conference with ‘Observer Status’, alongside other international organisations such as the International Olympic Committee, the International Paralympic Committee and the Commonwealth Secretariat. It was good to see women’s sport truly advocated at the conference, with our global executive members Rosa Diketmüller and Dianne Huffman also in attendance representing their respective organisations International Association of Physical Education and Sport for Girls and Women (IASPEGW) and WomenSport International (WSI).

Attendance at the conference presented an invaluable opportunity to raise awareness of the IWG amongst an influential audience, both by networking throughout the week and by representing IWG on stage in two events associated with the main conference.

Firstly, I joined a round-table discussion at the inaugural Multistakeholder Forum on the topic of ‘Using Data to Scale-up Funding: Impact Investment in Sport’, in front of an audience which included representatives from a range of organisations including the private sector, development banks, athletes, mayors, academics, NGOs and a number of the Ministers of Sport. The panel reflected on the importance of collaborating to build transparent quality data sets. This can then be used to demonstrate the impact and value of sport and physical activity on a wide range of social outcomes and is key to unlocking investment. This will be a focus for our Insight Hub when we relaunch it later this year.

Contributing to the panel discussion on ‘Data To Drive Investment’

Secondly, I presented some of the findings from our 2018 – 2021 Progress Report at the ‘Global Observatory for Gender Equality and Sport: Counting The Steps’ side-event. This was an opportunity to acknowledge the advancements which have undoubtedly been made in terms of opportunities and visibility of women and girls’ sport, but highlighted there is still more work to do which forms the basis of our strategic focus for the next four years.

The main conference itself was hugely informative, and culminated in the adoption of UNESCOs ‘Fit For Life’ Alliance. This was the highlight of the conference because it represented a landmark moment in which all countries – as well as corporate brands such as Nike – backed ‘Fit for Life’ which, amongst other things, will play a part in tackling gender inequality in sport exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Importantly, UNESCO, UN Women and Global Spotlight used the event to launch their new handbook which focuses on ‘Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls in Sport’. This is a superb resource which not only draws attention to the issue and its various manifestations but also sets out recommendations for a range of audiences including those taking part in sport, policy makers, sports journalists, and NGOs. Tackling violence against women and girls in sport is fundamental to our vision of sport and physical activity contributing to a world where all women and girls thrive and this new handbook represents another step forward.

MINEPS VII was an excellent event, with productive outcomes in terms of addressing gender inequality – and indeed inequalities in general – within sport. It gave IWG a platform to speak directly to Ministers and senior officials from around the globe, and I’m thankful to both UNESCO and the Global Observatory for the opportunities provided within this global event.

Catching up with Fiona Chambers (AIESEP), plus Global Executive members Diane Huffman (WSI) and Rosa Diketmüller (IAPESGW)


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