From David Moyes’ ‘slap’ comment to the mounting accounts of sexist tirades suffered by top British women cyclists, sport’s role in perpetuating abuse and violence towards women has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
However, that’s not the full story. Sport can also be a powerful vehicle for not only empowering girls and women, but challenging the attitudes and beliefs that lie at the heart of gender based violence – especially when these are being shaped in young people.
Ask many boys and young men to come to a workshop on gender-based violence, and you might not get many takers. But tackle the same issues through the local football team they play for and the results are amazing. Working through community football leagues creates a safe, regular space for boys and young to talk through real life gender issues with the people they trust most – transforming the very nature of “locker-room talk.”
That’s why, on the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, we are saluting the work of our partner Sport in Action who are using football to directly challenge and change negative attitudes and behaviours towards women. The Stamping Out and Preventing Gender Based Violence (STOP GBV) project in Zambia uses community football to engage young men and boys in exploring positive forms of masculinity and championing the rights of women and girls.
It’s also great testament to the power of working together. The STOP GBV programme is a true team effort, with the Zambian government, key funders, local and international charities and community coaches all working in partnership to ultimately end gender based violence in rural Zambia. Sport in Action’s ground-breaking work is also receiving technical support from International Inspiration, with its specialist experience in harnessing the power of sport for development and, since the 1st November 2016, International Inspiration is now a part of the United Purpose (UP) family, benefitting from UP’s rich heritage of 40 years of community-based development (as Concern Universal).
Working together we can make a real difference and can harness the power of sport to promote dignity, justice and respect for all. Let’s all work to create more of these headlines – and less of the others.
Watch this short film, by World Vision, for an inspiring example of how sport is being used to help combat gender-based violence: