The 16 Days of Activism is an international campaign which takes place each year from 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) to 10 December (Human Rights Day), calling for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls, increase worldwide awareness and create opportunities.
At the launch of this year’s campaign UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon highlighted the importance of male involvement in addressing the problem and said: “Men must teach each other that real men do not violate or oppress women – and that a woman’s place is not just in the home or the field, but in schools and offices and boardrooms.”
Harnessing the capacity of sports to educate and change attitudes, in 2015, equality NGOs and sporting organisations put women’s participation in sport and the issues surrounding it in the spotlight, leading to groundbreaking advances.
Women’s participation and leadership
The world’s football governing body FIFA approved yesterday (2 December) a series of extensive reforms, including steps to the role of women in the governance of football, after a call to address the underrepresentation and under-resourcing of women’s football made by the FIFA Executive Committee (ExCo) member and Chair of the FIFA Task Force for Women’s Football Moya Dodd.
The proposal, which looked to increase the number of female ExCo members at FIFA from 20% to 30% and the integration of women’s football in the strategy and process of every FIFA member association, was backed by international athletes and organisations including Fare.
The reform comes after a similar move by the Asian Football Confederation, who announced in January 2015 an increase in the number of ExCo female members to 20%.
After hosting its first Women’s Football and Leadership conference ahead of the International Women’s Day, FIFA also launched in 2015 the first edition of the Female Leadership Development Programme to improve female representation in the game.
At national level, the United States Major League Soccer also put a focus on gender and diversity as a business imperative and recent numbers revealed that the number of women in senior team administration jobs increased from 42 in 2014 to 49 in 2015.
In Argentina, the newly created Foro Argentino de Mujeres en el Deporte Famud (in English Argentinian Forum for Women in Sport) is hoping for a similar change, calling for 20% of boardroom positions in sporting organisations to be occupied by women aged between 18 and 29.
Famud President Claudia Giaccone said: “It is necessary to work on sports policies that break social and cultural barriers, promoting equal opportunities for women.
“This will help develop sport at a local level too and a better sport in general.”
The game changer
At grassroots and professional level events and campaigns, including the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada, helped raise the profile of women’s football, break cultural barriers, address sexism and boost female participation in the game.
In April, the Iranian deputy minister for sports overturned a long-standing ban forbidding female sports fans to attend major sporting events, while in Italy players and fans mobilised in support of women’s football and calling for the resignation of Italy’s amateur football association president for referring to female players as “a bunch of lesbians”.
Ahead of the Women’s World Cup in Canada, which broke TV and audience records, the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) held its first Women’s Football Day dedicated to generate awareness about the transformative power of women’s football for girls and women and celebrate the sport across the region. Campaigns used the World Cup momentum to promote the practice of the sport as a way to end gender-based violence.
In addition, during the Fare action weeks the Football People movement organised a series of major events dedicated to highlight opportunities and encourage a debate on gender issues.
Sporting activities on 16 Days of Activism
Throughout the 16 Days of Activism sporting initiatives will further the far-reaching benefits of the practice of sport to empower and educate women, prevent abuse and share the values of healthy living, respect for team mates and opponents and fair play.
In South Africa all-girl football team Grassroots Soccer is kicking violence by connecting girls aged 11-14 with the strong support system of their teammates and coaches.
In Spain, La Liga club Valencia CF invited a group of famous women known for the personal and profesional achievements to attend the match against UD Las Palmas, a symbolic gesture for their efforts breaking down social and cultural barriers.
In Brazil, refugees and asylum-seekers were invited to play an all-women match at Maracanã, followed by a debate on gender violence.
Other activities include:
— UN Women Albania (@unwomenalbania) December 2, 2015
— Say NO – UNiTE (@SayNO_UNiTE) November 30, 2015