March 14th-25th, a flood of over 5,000 women poured into New York City for the 60th convening of the United Nations (UN) Commission on the Status of Women. The main purpose of this historic session was to define, describe and assess how the recently adopted post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) within the ‘Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’ would affect and enhance the lives of women everywhere. Among these thousands were intrepid warriors from the Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF), and long-time international partners under the banner of women’s sport, exercise and physical activity in its role in women’s empowerment.
Three programs devoted to sport stood out among the hundreds offered by international non-governmental organizations and government bodies; all with a vested interest in women. One program, “2030 Agenda – The Contribution of Sport to Achieve Gender Equality and End Gender Violence Against Women and Girls” was co-sponsored by Brazil, upcoming host for the 2016 Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee and UN Women. The program panel was hosted by WSF’s first President Donna de Varona. The second WSF partnered sport-focused program ‘Sport as a Tool for Gender Equality’ was presented by the government of Botswana (IWG host 2014-2018), IWG, WSI ACSM and WSF. The WSF speaker for the event, held in the Council of Nations, UN headquarters, was former WSF President Wendy Hilliard. I also presented on the panel to discuss sport programs around the world dedicated to advancing one or more of these goals. The third sports devoted program was ‘Girls and Women’s Embodied Empowerment: Key Ingredient of SDGs’. The WSF presenter for this powerful panel was Dr. Marj Snyder, WSF Senior Director of research and programs, and alongside were presenters from ACSM, WSI, IWG and Safe4Athletes.
The SDGs document, ‘Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,’ evolved over three years of global internet interaction and dialogue, NGO advocacy and government negotiation. The purpose of the entire process was to arrive at a global consensus around ‘the world we want’ by 2030. The preamble to the document outlines a very strong role for sport in the achievement of 17 ambitious goals. Four goals in particular have relevance to women’s sport advocates: Goal 3 – Good health and well-being; Goal 4 – Quality education; Goal 5 – Gender equality; Goal 8 – Decent work.
Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,
the New Agenda Item #37
“Sport is also an important enabler of sustainable development. We recognize the growing contribution of sport to the realization of development and peace in its promotion of tolerance and respect and the contribution it makes to the empowerment of women and to young people, individuals and communities as well as to the health, education and social inclusion objectives.”
Two important notes should be emphasized in this context: 1) the ‘we’ throughout the SDGs refer to the 193 countries that are members of the UN and approved the SDGs. Thus, the document is as far-reaching as government policy can be; 2) the mention of sport and empowerment of women is no accident. The entire 2-3 years of the SDG process to create the document was devoted to advocacy efforts by WSF and its global collaborators present with us at the UN Commission on the Status of Women. We all worked for more – on behalf of specific language in the goals themselves and the hundreds of related targets. While advocacy gains are often slow, this has been a very rewarding process.
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