The International Working Group on Women and Sport (IWG)’s endeavors to get more countries and associations to sign the Brighton plus Helsinki Declaration got a boost this past Friday with at least 23 national netball associations signing.
The aim of the declaration is to create an understanding of the barriers and dynamics which prevent girls and women from full participation and achievement in sport and physical activity.
Over the years the world has witnessed growing evidence of the positive effect of participation in sport and physical activity on girls’ and women’s health, well-being, social capital and educational engagement and achievement.
The declaration helps signatories in their endeavors to overcome challenges and to bring about change in their own organisations, communities, regions or nations. Endorsing the declaration is an excellent way to affirm the organisation’s commitment to gender equality and also signals an appreciation for the principles set forth by the declaration.
First signed in 1994 as the Brighton Declaration, it was 20 years later updated to the Brighton Plus Helsinki 2014 Declaration.
Since Botswana started hosting the IWG office in 2014, the network set itself an ambitious target to get 200 more signatories on board during their four years in office.
Speaking during the mass signings, which occurred on the sidelines of the two-day International Netball Federation (INF) congress, IWG Co-Chairperson Ruth Maphorisa said the signing of the declaration by many national associations bode well for the continued participation of women in sports.
“I say this because women form part of the energy guiding most sporting codes. That is why we should be especially proud to sign the Helsinki Brighton 2014 Declaration,” said an excited Maphorisa.
Maphorisa said the presence of the many netball federations at the congress showed there was eagerness to improve the landscape of women in netball not only for increased participation but also to retain players.
“Sometimes recruiting women to sport is not our biggest challenge but instead their retention remains the biggest challenge,” she said.
She said the challenge was brought about by the multiple roles society expects them to assume that sometimes force them to abandon sports in order to fulfill the other competing roles.
“It is for this reason that the Brighton Plus Helsinki 2014 Declaration suggests planning, designing, and managing programmes that appropriately and equitably meet the needs of women and girls in the community with special attention given to the need for child care provision, safe transport and safety during participation and performance,” she continued.
She said in addition the declaration spoke about strengthening school and youth sports and it was therefore imperative for signatories to the declaration to ensure that authorities responsible for sports, education, recreation and physical education of young people ensured equal opportunity.
“The declaration also calls for ensuring women and girls take up leadership positions in sports. I am pleased that netball is doing extremely well in this area,” she exclaimed.
She said the signing is a first for IWG and extended her congratulations to all the member countries and associations that had taken the initiative to sign and encouraged those left behind to step up and follow suit.
Meanwhile, Maphorisa has lamented the absence of netball among the sports played at the Olympics. She said since time immemorial netball alongside football has been a grassroots sport in most member countries taking part in the netball world cup.
“I therefore struggle to understand why netball has never made it to the Olympics given that inclusiveness forms part of the principles of the Olympic Games,” she said.