Looking Back at International Women's Day 2019 | Sport-In The Balance | The Youth Cafe

By Jacqueline Njeri,


40 years ago in 1979, the right of women and girls to participate in sports was affirmed.

A balanced world is envisioned as a better world, for women, men, children, and youth. Balance being where and when opposing forces combine. It is truly an instinctive picture of collaboration. To come together with every intention to bring balance to the way we approach women and youth empowerment means to accept that there have been mistakes and to embrace future challenges as synergies and possibilities. In the sport for development and peace sector, groundbreaking initiatives have been set in motion to empower women and girls, with recent ones such as the 'One Win Leads to Another' project by UN Women.

At the London 2012 Olympic Games, it was the first time ever that women competed in every sport of the Olympic program. Just 7 years ago! Granted, more has been done since then and women are now much more visible in sport than before. There is more to be done. Only 4% of sports media coverage is dedicated to women and only 12% of sports news is presented by women.

One of the Commonwealth youth networks with a specific focus on educating, demonstrating and advocating for the use of sport in development and peace programing, the Commonwealth Youth Sport for Development and Peace Network seeks to play its role in bridging this gender gap by including more women in its membership. With plans to recruit more local focal points to represent the 53 member States of the Commonwealth, CYSDP hopes more young women will take up the opportunity to lead policy and development programming through SDP. This is more than a hope and more than an ideal - it is a plan, it is a commitment. A commitment to increase women participation in decision making platforms and organizations in the global sports sector addressing gender inequalities in participation and leadership.

The gender equality agenda in the 2030 sustainable development goals recognizes with great confidence sport as an important enabler for development and women's empowerment. &Sport for development and peace (SDP) is the intentional use of sport, physical activity and play to attain specific development and peace objectives&, - Right To Play, SDP IWG Secretariat.  CYSDP developed a youth advocacy SDP toolkit, an actionable plan to support youth empowerment through sports and we encourage more intentional and sustainable investment to ensure the youth voice is made mainstream in the decision making and development processes.

As women across the world bring to an end 2019’s Women’s Month, it has been an eye-opening opportunity to highlight the work of visionary women. Women who defy gender stereotypes to balance the gap, to go further and to help others. Fatuma Adan is one of these women, a pioneer of sport for development and peace in Marsabit, Kenya. She established the Horn of Africa Development Initiative (HODI) where she has worked to address community empowerment including the award winning ‘Breaking the Silence’ project that challenges FGM/ female genital mutilation practices and early child marriages since 2012. It won a Beyond Sports, Sport for Social Inclusion award in 2015 and it has impacted over 1500 girls in northern Kenya. There are many women like her, unafraid to make the rules for a fairer world. For the women in sports defying gender stereotypes and balancing our world for the better - we're working and standing proud alongside you!

If you’re afraid to use your voice, give up your seat at the table
— Michelle Obama.

Jacqueline Njeri is a Young African Leaders Initiative Fellow, communications specialist and sport for social change practitioner. As the communications lead for Commonwealth Youth Sport for Development and Peace she has direct experience of using sport as a vehicle for sharing critical information with young people to address a range of issues including those related to communities in conflict, as well as the use of sport as a tool to empower young people.