Issues Faced by Women in Sports: Violence, Discrimination, Inequality

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Table of contents

  1. One Win Leads to Another
  2. Girls Got Game
  3. Tackling Other Issues

For countless years, both women and girls were known to be excluded from playing sports or doing any kind of work that would require them to move around. However, the women of today are now addressing the issue of gender inequality through sports. According to the Inter Press Service news agency, sports is actually one of the tools to encourage and empower women and girls all over the world, as it requires individuals to literally get on their feet and challenge the gender norms and stereotypes that have held women back for years. Furthermore, an article published in the United Nations (UN) Women website says that sports are a great driver of gender equality as it teaches individuals, regardless of age, the values of teamwork, self-reliance, resilience, and respect for one another.

Studies have also revealed that promoting sports among girls and women can not only improve their overall physical health, but can also increase their confidence levels, boost their self-esteem, develop courage, and foster their leadership skills. Sports provide girls with social connections as well as serve as a 'refuge' from violence within their homes and communities — all the while helping them to understand their bodies and encourage them to 'speak up' This is especially necessary when they reach their adolescent years and start feeling the pressures of having to follow tradition, culture, and beliefs.

One Win Leads to Another

Last month, the UN Women, in partnership with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), launched the One Win Leads to Another (OWLA) and hosted the Women and Sports Award, an event that celebrated the female game-changers who have fought and helped women and girls get through sports. One of the role models present in the program was Po Chun Liu, who recalled the numerous obstacles she faced in order to become the first female baseball empire in Taiwan. She even made it onto the 2018 Forbes' list of most powerful women in international sports. 'It’s our responsibility to empower girls and women so they’ll realize their full potential and take charge of their life…to help a girl is to help a family,' Liu says. IOC's President, Thomas Bach, also shared the same sentiments, 'Sports give girls and women self-confidence…especially in countries where women’s rights aren’t a top priority yet, there’s a tremendous benefit to women’s and girls’ participation in sport.'

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'In today’s world, no organization or country can afford to let half of the population be left behind – either in sport or in society. Advancing women in and through sport is truly a team effort. By joining hands and working together, sport can inspire the necessary change and lead the way,' he added. According to the UN Women, the OWLA program was generally created for the female audience as it combines sports practice with life-skills education for girls, especially those who belong to the most vulnerable, and often most violent communities.

Results show that 89 percent of the girls who were part of the program said that they were a leader, 93 percent of the girls knew where to report violence or any other kind of crime, 79 percent of girls knew the proper ways to prevent pregnancy, 77 percent of the girls knew how they could prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and 99 percent of the girls believed that they would get a job one day.

Girls Got Game

A similar program in the Philippines has shared the same views with OWLA. However, even though the country is ranked 8th in the world in terms of gender equality, the data is only based on the educational attainment and whether women enter the workforce, not in other factors like poverty, cultural norms, and gender stereotypes existing in the country.

The program, called Girls Got Game (GGG) was spearheaded by founding partners Krizianne Ty and Nikka Arcilla when they tapped into their network of athletes and gathered volunteers and core members to help implement the said program. According to an interview with the GGG's basketball program director, Val Chua, most of the volunteers for basketball at the time were within the founders' circle. Together, the GGG team built the program that's equal parts basketball basics, personal development, and fun. In fact, some of the girls who signed up expressed that they never even tried basketball before signing up so they adjusted to fit different skill levels. The girls were split according to their skill level, which was named after local Filipina athletes, received advice from their 'MVP Speakers,' and befriended coaches and volunteers who were passionate to see them succeed. 'We make sure that the girls have local role models that they can interact with and to show them that their goals are not impossible nor far away. There are everyday women who continue to thrive regardless of their backgrounds,' Chua states.

Tackling Other Issues

There are still a number of issues that many women face in the field of sports. Although issues of sexual harassment and violence in sports and other settings are now being addressed, it was only recently that these issues have been brought into the light. For many years, victims of sexual harassment, assault, and violence in sports had to endure the culture of victim-blaming, normalizing the trouble that is 'boys will be boys.'

In some instances, complicity and cover-ups have been used in order to 'protect' the image of these perpetrators — which have resulted in the decades of abuse that thousands of individuals have had to endure. A perfect example of this is the case of USA Gymnastics, where young female athletes were sexually assaulted by gym owners, gym staff, and even their own coaches. All in all, it is important to show boys and girls that both men and women can be prominent in the field of sports. UN Women also encourages news agencies to send more women as media to cover sports as well, boosting the number and visibility of female sports readers, enthusiasts, and analysts in major events.

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