#ENGSOGA2018: future-oriented discussions in medieval settings

On the 8th and 9th of June we held our General Assembly in Visby, Sweden. Over 70 representatives of our member and partner organisations travelled all the way to the west coast of Gotland for two fully packed working days.

On the 8th the event started with some welcome addresses from our President, Carlos Cardoso, our Secretary General, Stefan Bergh, and Margareta Persson, the Vice Chair of the Gotland Regional Executive Board. The professional programme started with the presentation of Yves Le Losteque in the EU seminar on Sport. After his speech, the Head of the European Commission’s Sport Unit received technical and content-related questions about the Erasmus+ Programme.

Yves Le Lostecque at the EU Seminar on Sport (Niels de Fraguier/ENGSO)

The EU seminar was followed by a workshop on our Sport Policy Programme. The draft document was presented by former ENGSO Policy Director, Heidi Pekkola, and her successor, Kaisa Larjomaa, and then it was discussed in small groups. The workshop aimed at giving the opportunity to the participants to suggest edits to the Policy Programme, and it reached its goal: the representatives of our members and partners were very active and provided lots of input to shape the document.

The highly intensive first day of the GA was concluded by a medieval dinner, when the guests were challenged to eat without a fork. They also enjoyed the spectacle of our hosts, who – wearing traditional medieval costumes – amazed them by swallowing fire.

The second day was even more intense than the first one. In the first half of the day we heard highly interesting presentations in the Member seminar on Sport and Inclusion. First in the morning, Jenny Svender, gender equality expert at the Swedish Sports Confederation shared with us some facts and figures about gender equality in the Swedish sport movement. “You take gender equality to the centre when you run an organisation, you don’t keep it separately.” – she said, receiving nods of approval from the audience.

Jenny Svender talking about gender equality in the Swedish Sport movement (Niels de Fraguier/ENGSO)

She was followed by David Hofstetter on stage who presented the work of the European Gay and Lesbian Sport Federation. The seminar on sport and inclusion wouldn’t have been complete without the presentation of our Erasmus+ Sport co-funded ASPIRE project. Project Manager Orsolya Tolnay talked about the project from the initial idea to the implementation, highlighting the importance of increasing knowledge and evidence-base in using sport, physical activity and play in the inclusion of refugees in society. The last presentation of the seminar was a heart-warming example of how sport can support one’s inclusion into a new society. Shamima Aktar a journalist, women´s rights activist and basketball leader led us through her journey from Bangladesh to Visby, from death threats to the foundation of a basketball team, World Wide Ladies, in her new home.

“When I came to Gotland it was very difficult for me, sport saved me!” – stated Shamima, who received a great amount of questions including the ones about her motivations to help other women to practice sport and about how she sees the Swedish sport system.

Shamima Aktar lead the audience through her life journey (Niels de Fraguier/ENGSO)

The highly intensive morning seminar was followed by a well-deserved lunch. In the afternoon the ENGSO and ENGSO Youth General Assemblies took place separately. The ENGSO GA started with some welcome addresses, that were succeeded by official procedures, including the presentation of our annual report for 2017, the treasurer’s report and the one of the auditors. Then, it was time to discuss our 2019 Work Plan and for Kaisa Larjomaa to elaborate on the previous day’s workshop on our Policy Programme. After the interactive discussion about the document, Stefan Bergh introduced the membership applicant organisations. According to the decision of the GA, from now on the Hellenic Paralympic Committee is a full ENGSO-member, while the European Gay and Lesbian Sport Federation became our associated member.

In the last block of the Assembly, the floor was open for all present member organisations to address the GA and share some information about themselves. As a closure to the GA, Carlos Cardoso and Stefan Bergh lauded two long-time colleagues who have recently left ENGSO. Former chair of our Equality Within Sport Committee, Kristina Thurée was thanked for her great work in ENGSO on the topic of gender equality in sport, and then former Policy Director, Heidi Pekkola was complimented for her 6,5 years work as our representative in Brussels and for having been the “face” of ENGSO. With these farewells, the working part of the Assembly was over, and all what was to be done was having some fun. Half of the group went on a bus trip to explore Gotland, while the other half took a #BeActive walking tour within the medieval walls of Visby, discovering the reason why the town became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.

The tours were followed by the last event of the GA, a dinner hosted by Gotland’s Governor, Ms. Cecilia Schelin Seidegård in her residence. The wonderful meal was concluded by free discussions on her terrace overlooking the porch and admiring the late orange sunset on the Baltic Sea.

The participants of the ENGSO GA 2018 (Niels de Fraguier/ENGSO)

It has been a great pleasure to come together with our members and partners on this wonderful island to discuss topics that matter to us: inclusion, equality and youth in grassroots sport. We express our gratitude to the Swedish Sports Confederation for being an excellent host and co-organiser of the event.

Further photos of the event can be found here.

#ENGSOGA2018 #Visby #Gotland #SwedishSportsConfederation #EUSeminar #YvesLeLostecque #HeidiPekkola #KaisaLarjomaa #EGLSF #ShamimaAktar #HellenicParalympicCommittee