Equal sport opportunities for women was the main topic of discussion at the Online Breakfast Roundtable on Women in Sport, organised by the Council of Europe’s Sport Division on International Women’s Day, 8 March 2022.
As a member of the Equality Within Sport Committee (EWS), Sarah Townsend, Co-president of EGLSF (European Gay & Lesbian Sport Federation), repesented ENGSO by speaking up on challenges and issues realted to equality and equal access to sport.
She highlighted the urgent need to provide everyone with an equal access to sport, including the LGBTQI+ women, and make sure that sport and physical activity are open to everybody. Ms Townsend also presented the work of the ENGSO’s Equality Within Sport Committee and the intersectional approach the committee is planning to utilise. The EWS’s action plan 2022-23 will focus on four main areas of equality: LGBTIQ+, social-economic, health, disability.
More action is needed to ensure the minority groups, which are still not welcome in sport, receive the equal opportunity to play, engage and participate in sport.
“We need to make sure that we open sport to everybody”
Ms Townsend took questions from participants concerning the invisibility of LBTI women in sport, and the question of “femininity” in sport. In her reponses, Ms Townsend highlighted the lack of role models, and missed opportunities in sport up to now for actively welcoming women in all their diversity. She insisted on the need for us to challenge our sport structures and institutions, our clubs and ourselves, to start creating space for women of all profiles. Regarding the relevance of femininity in sport, Ms Townsend replied that history shows how sport uses this issue to exclude women from sport – first by claiming women were too weak for sport, particularly endurance sports, and up to the present day with sport governing bodies still regulating women’s participation in sport by defining what women’s bodies are and are not, can and cannot do.
ENGSO’s newest project “Equality in Sport” aims to empower grassroot voluntary based sport organizations and support to use sport for promoting equality, human rights and democratic values for a stronger Europe”.
Online Breakfast Roundtable on Women in Sport was organised by the Council of Europe’s Sport Division and moderated by Francine Hetherington Raveney. Other guests included were Snežana Samardžić-Marković, Dr Payoshni Mitra, Pauline Harrison, Emine Bozkurt, Nagin Ravand, Charlotte Girard Fabre, Jane Dennehy, Kole Gjeloshaj and Tess Harmand.