International Working Group on Women and Sport

Seeing Behind and Beyond Trophies
02/24/2014 10:30

“The language of sport is international. Its message touches, awakens feelings and unites. Its world produces inspiring people and phenomena that serve as role models and examples to young people and children. Sport has the power to tell stories that stay in our minds and hearts”, reminds President Tarja Halonen, Patron in Chief of the 6th IWG World Conference Women and Sport (IWG, 2013c).


Numerous inspirational stories have been shared and various important messages delivered through a network of active girls and women across the globe. It has been proven to be essential for women to have a common platform to exchange ideas and share best practices in the field of sport. Girls and women in the heart of Africa or Australia may face different challenges than their sisters in Scandinavia or South America, yet they all have something in common – their love for sport. Through sport, women have the opportunity to go beyond tracks, medals or records. Globally sport offers a neutral platform to promote gender equality, facilitate civic and human rights, and educate on health issues.


Sport is about participation and active engagement in sports often encourages participation in other sectors of life as well. A recent study (Ernest & Young, 2013) found that 80% of executive women played sports growing up, and that 69% said sports helped them develop leadership skills that contribute to their professional success. Sport allows girls and women to dream. Sport teaches them to set goals. It encourages them to train hard and to fail – and how to get up again. Sport teaches us how to work with others, trust one’s teammates, and believe in oneself.


In 2014 the International Working Group on Women and Sport (IWG) celebrates its 20th anniversary. Since 1994 the IWG has served as a platform to give a voice for women and girls across the globe. Through an active network of decision-makers, politicians, researchers, educators and students, coaches, athletes and volunteers, the voices of women and girls have been shared at conferences and seminars, at the parlaments and offices. Stories have been published in newspapers, broadcasted on TV and aired on radio. IWG has more than 16,000 likes on Facebook and close to 3,500 followers on Twitter. Within the 20 years of the IWG’s existence, more than 400 organizations have signed the Brighton Declaration which aims to engage organizations to commit towards a more equal sporting world (IWG, 2013b).The Declaration is meant to complement all sporting, local, national and international charters, laws, codes, rules and regulations relating to women or sport. Today the message from the ground has the potential to reach other game changers within minutes. The voice of the women and girls is powerful and they all have one common thought in mind: Change.


Lead the Change – Be the Change


The 6th IWG World Conference on Women and Sport will be organized in Helsinki, Finland in June 2014 under the theme Lead the Change – Be the Change. The conference will provide an opportunity to meet people behind the change: people from different cultures, backgrounds and age groups who are working towards the common goal of equal sporting culture.


The themes of the conference have been chosen to reflect the demanded change that is emerging across the globe. The themes of the conference are: Sport without fear – sport as a safe haven & bastion for human rights; Buck the trend – leading the change in sport policy; Be your best coach – pursuing excellence in leadership and coaching; Move me! Physical activity, health and well-being in life, and 100% Sport – Enhancing participation through creativity & innovation.


The overall conference theme encourages each and every one of us to take the lead towards the change we want. “It always seems impossible until it's done”, said the great leader and peacemaker Nelson Mandela who proved that change happens over time and with the willingness to not give up.


The entire IWG family believes that full equality within the field of sport is possible. Therefore the IWG warmly welcomes the emergence of the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace. Such a commemoration is not only a contribution to raising awareness of the overall positive benefits of sport, but also an acknowledgement to those who have consistently worked with sport as a tool towards the greater good – a peaceful world where every individual is valued as an appreciated member of society.


The International Day of Sport for Development and Peace in Finland


The IWG secretariat in 2010–2014 is headquartered in Finland and therefore the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace on April 6 will be celebrated together with the Finnish Olympic Committee, Finnish Paralympic Committee, Finnish Confederation Valo, Finnish Sports Association of Persons with Disabilities, sports charity NGO called LiiKe – Sports & Development, and with the intention to invite other relevant parties to be part of this special day.


The day aims to celebrate togetherness and promote the power that sport provides for humanity. We wish to share stories of how the role of sport has been significant to our country’s development. The supporting pillars of Finnish society mirror the values of the sporting culture: equality, health, transparency, democracy, sustainability, education and solidarity. We also wish to hear stories from other parts of the world and examine the challenges that the field of sport currently faces. The day will also mark an important point on the countdown to the 6th IWG World Conference on Women and Sport on June 12–15, 2014. In the lead-up to the conference, the IWG encourages members of the worldwide Women and Sport Network to use April 6 as an opportunity to take action in promoting sport as a tool to empower women in their respective countries.


The inaugural International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, organized by the United Nations and the International Olympic Committee, is an important initiative to remind the sporting world to see behind and beyond the trophies. The Olympic Truce means holding hands or laying down arms, and the truce was announced before and during each of the Olympic festivals in ancient Greece (International Olympic Committee, 2013). When the modern Olympic Games were launched in 1896 the values of equality, fairness, mutual respect, international tolerance and understanding were introduced to all levels and sectors of sport. On April 6, 2014, it is time to put these values back on the everyday agenda and examine how we would like the future of sport to look.


The 6th IWG World Conference on Women and Sport will be a great opportunity to follow up on the discussions on sport, development and peace (WG, 2013a). We warmly welcome everyone to take part in these discussions in Helsinki, Finland on June 12–15, 2014.



Raija Mattila |

Niina Toroi |




Ernst & Young. (2013). From elite female athletes to exceptional leaders: For all the places sport will take you. Retrieved from$FILE/Elite%20female%20athletes%20and%20exceptional%20leaders%20Rio%20event.pdf


International Olympic Committee. (2013). Olympic Truce. Retrieved from


IWG (2013a). 6th World Conference on Women and Sport. Retrieved from


IWG. (2013b). Brighton Declaration. Retrieved from


IWG. (2013c). Greetings from President Halonen: Sport has the power to tell stories that stay in our minds and hearts. Retrieved from