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The Brighton Declaration and Its Promises to Women in Sport


Sally Ride, the first USA woman in space, was an accomplished tennis player and great friend to WSF appearing as a Keynote Speaker for The New Agenda for Women in Sport 1983. She famously described how tiny the earth seemed from the space capsule circling it every 90 minutes. She was emphasizing how ‘we are all in this together’ here on the ‘blue planet’ and never ceases to remind me, in sport international work, the similarities of obstacles and barriers sportswomen face as well as the deep pleasure we all gain from our participation no matter whether we are from Azerbaijan (A) or Zambia (Z).

Here in the USA, the landscape for girls and women in sport changed dramatically with the passage and (at least partial) implementation of Title IX. A document which might be termed one part the ‘international Title IX’ and one part ‘Bill of Rights for girls and women in sport’ was created following the first global women’s sport conference in Brighton England 1994. The “Brighton Declaration” is still actively receiving new supporters to this day having been signed by the President of the country of Costa Rica 2013, the International Council on Sport for the Deaf 2014 and FIFA a few months ago 2015. Over time since 1994, the Declaration has been signed by 419+ organizations including the IOC, IPC, numerous national Olympic Committees and International Federations, as well as local and regional sport organizations in USA and abroad.

While Title IX has behind it the force of federal law, there is no law or court system to enforce the Brighton Declaration but it is a set of organizational promises made to girls and women who are, or wish to be, sport participants. People and organizations of honor and principle have obligations to uphold the Declaration upon becoming a signatory. It is much more than a ‘fashionable’ or politically correct step to be taken! It is up to us, as passionate advocates, to hold our organizations to their word.

The Brighton Declaration is a relatively brief sport policy document. Its provisions are simple and familiar to us. It calls for commitments and resources needed to bring the opportunities of sport to girls and women across communities everywhere. Here is a brief ‘digest version’ of the Declaration.

1. Equity and equality in society and sport – * Equal opportunity to participate whether for leisure and recreation, health promotion or high performance is the right of every girl and woman whatever her race, color, language, religion, creed, sexual orientation or identity, age, marital status, ability/disability, political belief or affiliation, national or social origin. * Resources, power and responsibilities should be allocated fairly and without discrimination on the basis of sex or gender but such allocation should redress any inequitable balances in benefits to women and men.

2. Facilities – The planning, design and management of all sport facilities should appropriately and equitably meet the needs of woman and girls in the community with special attention to child care provisions, safe transport, and safety in participation and performance.

3. Quality Physical Education – QPE is particularly important for girls to learn skills, knowledge and understandings necessary for lifelong participation.

4. Lifelong opportunity – Based on growing evidence of the health benefits of active lifestyle, those responsible for delivering sport opportunities and programs should provide and promote activities which meet needs and interests of girls and women throughout the lifespan.

5. High Performance – Those supporting elite and high performance athletes should ensure that competitive opportunities, rewards, incentives, recognition, sponsorship, promotion and other forms of support are provided fairly and equitably to women and men.

6. Leadership – Those responsible for leadership should develop policies, programs and design structures which increase the number of women coaches, advisors, decision makers, officials, administrators, and sports personnel at all levels. Special attention should be given to recruitment, mentoring, empowerment, reward and retention of women leaders.

7. Education, training and development – Those responsible should ensure that educational processes and experiences address issues relating to gender equality and the needs of female athletes including a safe and secure environment, equitable reflect women’s role in sport and physical activity and take account of women’s leadership experiences, values and attitudes.

8. Research and information – Increase the knowledge and understanding concerning women and sport and include gender-balanced data collection whenever compiling statistics on social development at international levels.

9. Resources – Those responsible for allocation of resources ensure that the support is available for women’s programs and any special measures to advance the Declaration.

10. Governments and NGOs collaborate and incorporate the promotion of issues of gender equality and sharing of examples of good practice in domestic and international arenas.

In 2014, the 20th anniversary of the launch of the Brighton Declaration on the occasion of the 7th World Conference on Women and Sport Helsinki, it was enhanced and updated in details of revisions titled “Brighton Plus Helsinki” however all the original promises are still very much in place.

Do these promises ring true to you and the organizations in which you lead and participate? If you are interested, organizations anywhere and everywhere are welcome to become ‘Signatories’ to the Brighton Plus Helsinki Declaration. It can be a significant community, region or national event and also signify that you wish to be known as part of an international community of individuals and organizations dedicated to bringing the power of sport to girls and women all over the planet. If you wish to join with other outstanding organizations such as Women’s Sport Foundation, US Olympic Committee, US Volleyball, US Committee on Sports for the Deaf, go to the website for IWG, click on Contacts, send an email of request and the processes will be underway through the IWG Secretariate in Gabarone, Botswana.  Its another ‘one small step’ to save our beautiful blue planet through the power of sport!