This year's theme of UNICEF's International Day of the Girl- October 11- is “My voice, our equal future”. According to UNICEF, the International Day of the Girl 2020 focus was on three (3) key areas:
*Freedom from gender-based violence
*Learning of new skills for their future
*Being leaders of societal change
The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995) emphasised several keys points which must continue to be central in the decision making process in every country:
o Promote girls' awareness of and participation in social (including sport and physical activity), economic and political life. This is in keeping with the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 promoting gender equality.
o Eliminate negative cultural attitudes and practices against girls. This will include traditional values and practices that discouraged female participation in sport and physical activity.
o Promote and protect the rights of girls and increase awareness of their needs and potential. Participation in all aspect of sports should be available to girls.
o Eliminate discrimination against girls in health and nutrition. Participation in sport and physical activity is a proven means of maintaining both physical and mental health. This is very essential in a period of COVID-19. SDG 4 emphasises the importance of health and nutrition.
o Elimination of all forms of discrimination- race, ethnicity, sexuality, economic etc.- against girls.
In terms of sport specifically, Trinidad and Tobago is a signatory to the Brighton Declaration on Women and Sports 1994. The Declaration highlighted several key principles by which sport can be an effective catalyst for female empowerment both on and off the field of play/arena.
The principle of Equity and Equality in Society and Sport states that every woman should have equal opportunity to participate in sport regardless of race, colour, language, religion, creed, sexual orientation, age, marital status, disability, political belief or affiliation, national or social origin. Resources, power and responsibility should be allocated fairly and without discrimination based on sex.
The question that has to be constantly asked is if women and men benefit equitably from access to all forms of resources especially when the state is the main benefactor. It is quite easy to be comforted that resources are allocated, however, by not knowing the details of disbursements may result in a reinforcement of any existing imbalances between men and women. What can the state and the private sector do to ensure that there is equity in the distribution of funding to national governing bodies (NGBs) to promote gender equity? Including a clause within the funding provided by the MSCD, SPORTT and the private sector to emphasize the importance of promoting and developing women and girls in sport is one option.
The principle of accessibility to sporting facilities recommends that the planning, design and management of facilities must meet the particular needs of women such as child care provision and safety. In terms of school and sport, it is stated that girls and boys approach sport differently. Hence, it is recommended that those who are responsible for organizing and implementing sports and recreation take into account differences in values, attitudes and aspirations of goals.
The Ministry of Sport and Community Development (MSCD), and SPORTT must ensure through their different programmes and funding mechanisms, females like males have access to sporting facilities of the same standard while at the same time taking into account any specific needs of female athletes.
The Brighton Declaration 1994 states that “Women are under-represented in the leadership and decision making of all sport and sport-related organisation”. Even if it may be argued that women are involved in the management of sporting organizations, the fundamental question that has to be asked is whether they are in decision making positions and or whether their voice is heard for the promotion of women's sport?
According to the Brighton Declaration 1994, every effort should be made to encourage the “number of women coaches, advisers, decision-makers, officials, administrators and sports personnel at all levels.” To achieve this goal requires developing a baseline for each of these categories and then developing strategies to achieve specific targets in all sporting disciplines. SDG 5 speaks to this principle and the pronouncements and actions of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) to increase women involvement in every aspect of sport is a step in the direction of achieving the leadership principle. Our sporting bodies outside of the TTOC doing the same?
NGBs through their leadership have to be aware of their responsibilities and actions for promoting female participation in every aspect of sport. The MSCD and SPORTT through the national Sport Policy must ensure that female engagement in sport and physical activity at all levels is continuously maximised. Gender should NOT be a reason for exclusion in sport and physical activity in the 21st century and beyond.