GAPWOMEN- Empowering women in sport: celebrating International Women’s Rights Day

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Significant gender inequalities persist in the sports sector across Europe. In 90% of sports, there is a notable disparity in the number of licenses held by men and women within federations. These inequalities are embedded in a system that hinders the development of female sports, manifesting in various disparities.

Faced with this situation, the Gap Women project, supported by the European Union, brings together 10 partners with a common objective: to promote women’s participation in sports and to increase the number of female federation licenses. The initiative targets women, including those at risk of social exclusion, as well as organizations, federations, clubs, and public authorities. Through various awareness activities and events, Gap Women aims to create a more inclusive and equitable environment for all. On International Women’s Rights Day, March 8, the project highlighted women in sports, both as athletes and in management, coaching, and leadership positions during a series of events. Partner clubs and federations across Europe joined the campaign to promote gender equality in sports.

Events on the Ground

Over 90 people participated in the UFEC event on March 7th, featuring Marta Cantón, the first Catalan athlete to earn an Olympic diploma. The gathering marked the launch of the fourth edition of WESE, the pioneering post-graduate course in female sports leadership, alongside the presentation of the Gap Women project and an online course on gender equality. Attendees also enjoyed an inspiring session on the female leadership, facilitated by non-verbal communication expert Patrycia Centeno. Furthermore, UFEC shared the Manifesto for gender equality in sport across its social media channels.

Sport and Citizenship hosted on March 23th a conference in Le Mans coinciding with the first women’s match of the Six Nations Rugby tournament between France and Ireland, focusing on the engagement of women in sport, as athletes or volunteers. The event featured a panel discussion where women shared their journeys, inspiring young girls in attendance Online Playing Fields

Beginning of March, ENGSO hosted an enlightening online seminar titled “Every woman is welcome in sport – Are they?”, probing into the inclusivity of women in sports.

Concurrently, the International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education (ICSSPE) organized an online session on March 23th titled “Women Leaders in Sport,” delving into the topic of gender equality and leadership in the sporting arena. Featuring esteemed panelists such as Ruth M Crabtree, Helen Mann, Eva Werthmann, and Usha Nair, the discussion explored crucial topics including gender equality, reforming gender roles in sport leadership, overcoming barriers to women in sports, and identifying key qualities of effective leaders in the field.

In the same period, Aps Asd Margherita Sport e Vita held a seminar focused on resilience in sports, specifically addressing women’s experiences in football. Dr. Sicilia, a psychologist, discussed how football helps develop social skills and overcome gender stereotypes in Italy. During the event, Pink Football team President, Alessandra Signorile, urged parents to let their daughters choose their sports freely.

Female Sporting Events

Regarding sporting events, the European Table Tennis Union (ETTU) organized “Girls Match Day”, a significant event on March 2, 2024, aimed at boosting participation among young female table tennis players. Hosted by AmagerBTK and Greve BTK, event provided a supportive space for girls to improve their skills and foster camaraderie through social activities. Similarly, a few days before, Aps Asd Margherita Sport e Vita and Pink Bari Calcio Femminile Asd organized a regional football tournament for girls. This event aimed to address the gender gap in sports and promote gender equality by encouraging women’s participation in sports federations. On its side, FECDAS arranged “Try Dives for Women,” introducing eleven participants to diving under the guidance of female instructors. These initiatives celebrated female talent in sports, empowering participants and promoting inclusivity.

Girls Match Day. Credit photo: Andreas Mikkel Photography

Safe Spaces and Training Initiatives

Diving Instructor Scholarship program

Another initiative, the European Table Tennis Union (ETTU) introduced a “Women’s Safe Space” at the Danish National Championships held in Fredericia on April 20-21. This designated area ensured a secure and welcoming environment for female attendees, supported by staff, encouraging more women to participate confidently in sports events.

In the same month, FECDAS initiated a Diving Instructor Scholarship program, providing opportunities for women in the underwater sports sector to pursue professional training. The goal is to empower and highlight women’s contributions in this field, promoting gender diversity in diving instruction and facilitating access to professional opportunities in marine-related activities. Through this scholarship, FECDAS aims to elevate skilled women to the instruction level, fostering inclusivity and expertise within the diving community.

Next steps

Looking ahead, the Gap Women project partners will organize additional activities and events in September 2024 as part of the European Week of Sport. Additionally, interviews with high-level female athletes will be featured on our website, providing vision from their experiences to encourage and inspire other women to take part in sport or pursue their sport despite the challenges faced. Discover the first interview with Laia Palau, former basketball player, who was an international player from 2002 and captain of the Spanish national team from 2014: