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24 years of the IWG Conference on Women and Sport: Lessons learnt

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24 years of the IWG Conference on Women and Sport: Lessons learnt

Dr. Anita White shared some insights on the experience of organising the women sport movement’s leading conference.

Beginning in Brighton, United Kingdom, in 1994, this year’s event in Gaborone was the seventh IWG Conference on Women and Sport. After outlining the history of the first event during the final keynote speech on 20 May, IWG Founding Member Dr. Anita White shared some of the developments that have happened over time.

One challenge is that the conference and working group hasn’t been particularly successful in engaging some parts of the world. Big countries in Asia such as India and China have been largely missing, along with Russia. There has been limited representation from Latin America, although 18 attendees from the region were in Gaborone.

Developing the women and sport movement has also raised some questions. The conference is great for those able to attend. But what about those who can’t? Many people do not have the finances, time or organisational backing. Are conferences really the best way to progress the working group’s aims?

How to collaborate effectively has also been an interesting topic of discussion. To what extent is the working group collaborating across the women and sport landscape? It does include a range of actors with both those more concerned with sport and those more concerned with the development of women represented, but it is a challenge to ensure all voices are heard.

White went on to outline four key lessons learnt:

1. Seize the moment. Conditions need to be right. If you are to make progress, you need both individual commitment and organisational backing. She was fortunate to have that in the early 1990s when White had the idea.

2. Develop a network. This is vital for ensuring success and wide representation.

3. Identify your male allies. For the first conference to happen, the organising group needed the approval of nine people’s male bosses. Choose your men carefully – some will say they support you but don’t do much at all.

4. Value and embrace diversity. You need scholars and non-scholars, governmental and non-governmental organisations, radical and liberal feminists, and those who don’t want to call selves feminists at all.

Closing the speech, White shared a final thought:

You can make a difference. Be brave. Everything helps, whether encouraging a woman you know to stand for election or organising an event.

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Monday, May 21, 2018 - 13:26