IWG Women & Sport Global Executive met in London

“What you need in life is to know about history and have sunshine in your life”, explained Anita White, one of the founding ladies of the International Working Group on Women in Sport (IWG).

To know why and how the global women and sport movement is today, it is helpful to know where it came from. IWG has come a long way. For 25 years, a dream of a more equal world of sport has been the driving force. Thanks to IWG Women & Sport and other organisations advancing equality, today, the culture of sport offers more opportunities to girls and women than ever before. However, the work is not finished. In fact, it has only begun.

The sun was not shining in London on 7-9 June, but the atmosphere was brighter than the sun, when the IWG Women & Sport Global Executive met for the annual meeting in the 25th anniversary year of the organisation. The meeting was hosted by the British Olympic Association, the British Paralympic Association, UK Sport and the Commonwealth Games Federation. Niina Toroi, the Chair of the ENGSO Equality Within Sport Committee was present at the meeting, serving as the Representative of Europe.

Since 1994, a group of dedicated women have worked to ensure that sports offer equal opportunities for women and girls. Today, IWG Women & Sport is the world’s largest network dedicated to empowering women and girls – advancing sport. One would assume that in 2019 the topics from 1994 are solved already, however, many of the issues are still hot topics. Now, time is up! Now, it is time to have women and girls widely represented on all levels and sectors of sport. Now, it is time to act!


“In 2019, 5 out of 70 presidents or secretary generals in international sport federations are females”, said Annamarie Phelps, Vice-President of the British Olympic Association. The number is not good enough. Female role models are needed. Every single national organisation, every single continental organisation and every single international organisation must place the issue of gender equality onto their agenda. When women, the other half of humanity, are involved in decision-making to the full extent, it will benefit us all.

Having safe environment to practice sport, to prevent harassment and abuse in sport or to be healthy while doing sports should be obvious, but is not. The recent Caster Semenya-case shows that women do not have the ownership of their own bodies. IWG, WomenSport International and the International Association of Physical Education for Girls and Women made a common statement, declaring that

We believe that affected athletes are being penalized for their biological traits, over which they have no control, and that such penalty enforces gender inequality, because it does not apply to male athletes. We believe that this infringes their human rights.”

Besides receiving a response back from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the statement was quoted by a global newspaper, The Guardian. The common statement of the three organisations showcased that there lays power in networks. The message was stronger as three organisations stated it together.

Despite positive changes that the global sport movement has established over the past two decades, when it comes to visibility of girls and women, they still lag behind. They are not only invisible in action and research, but in portrayal as well. It is predicted that the ongoing FIFA Women’s World Cup will break all the previous spectators’ records in single women’s events. Let’s hope that after this World Cup, there will be no need to explain why visibility is important and can be improved by leaders of sport.

As a global network, the IWG has the capability to reach out across continents and countries. With the world’s best-known sport organisations on board, IWG's starting point is clear: Let’s make the invisible visible. At the core of the IWG is the Brighton plus Helsinki 2014 Declaration, which now has 550+ signatories. By signing the Declaration, organisations such as the International Olympic Committee, the International Paralympic Committee, FIFA or WADA have agreed to promote and advance sporting opportunities for girls and women.

The ENGSO Equality Within Sport Committee, the European voice at the IWG encourages all the ENGSO member organisations to sign the Declaration. In addition, we encourage all our member organisations to do an action plan on equality by 2021. By joining the team of Brighton + Helsinki signatories, your organisation will not only be the best it can be but will also be a powerful example of how sports will look like in the future.

By joining the ENGSO EWS Facebook group you can stay tuned and contribute to the discussion about equality topics in Europe.

#EngsoEWS #EqualityinSport