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Commonwealth Moves for all: United in the fight against COVID-19

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Commonwealth Moves for all: United in the fight against COVID-19

In light of the pandemic, the Commonwealth Secretariat created the Commonwealth Moves initiative to provide practical solutions and recommendations in partnership with sport for development experts from around the Commonwealth.

The advent of COVID-19 brought with it unforeseen challenges for people around the world, and has laid bare a variety of existing challenges and vulnerabilities in society. The pandemic has had disproportionate impact on underrepresented and marginalised communities, especially children and young people, women and girls, and the elderly.

As we reflect on an entire year of lockdowns and movement restrictions, the ability of people to participate in sport and physical activity stands out significantly. While there is ample recognition of the numerous benefits of sport and physical activity, including its contribution to the sustainable development goals, the pandemic has limited this positive impact by curtailing access to gyms, sport facilities, schools, and other avenues of participation in sport and physical activity.

Recognising this impact, and in keeping with its ongoing efforts to support 54 member governments to maximise the contribution of sport to sustainable development, the Commonwealth Secretariat created the Commonwealth Moves initiative to provide practical solutions and recommendations in partnership with sport for development experts from around the Commonwealth.

Ahead of the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace on 6 April 2021, as we continue our fight against the impact of COVID-19, the following resources developed under the Commonwealth Moves initiative continue to stay relevant.

Mental Health Through Sport and Physical Activity (Coaches Across Continents)

Coaches Across Continents (CAC), with the Commonwealth Secretariat, created a play-based educational resource, covering issues such as anxiety, self-esteem, and stress. 96% of CAC partners reported adverse impact on the mental wellbeing of youth due to the pandemic, and the resource seeks to benefit any organisation, community, coach, or teacher who interact with young people. The activities are adaptable to participant numbers and restrictions (distancing, hygiene etc.) and can be used in contexts where social distancing and hygiene measures are necessary.

Highlighting the pandemic as an opportunity to transform the narrative around the significance of sport and physical activity, CAC underscored the need to change the perception of sport and physical activity in the minds of young people, parents, teachers, and communities.

“COVID-19 has denied people the ability to socialise, play, and move, causing everyone to reassess what really matters.  One of the key opportunities the COVID-19 pandemic recovery presents to sport and play is that its many benefits have been reinforced in people's minds. We can build back better post COVID-19 by re-emphasising sport and play’s role in the emotional and social development of young people as opposed to primarily its role in elite talent development”.

SAGI: Gender Equality Through Sport (Pro Sport Development and Martha Farrell Foundation, India)

Reiterating concerns around the increase in gender-based violence against women and girls, Pro-Sport Development (PSD) and the Martha Farrell Foundation (MFF) in India emphasised a need to enhance the inclusion of women and girls in and through sport, and to change attitudes towards gender-based violence. The Sport Against Gender Inequality (SAGI) addresses these concerns through an engaging, participatory and structured methodology utilising sport and physical activity.

The SAGI resource aims to help practitioners in the sport and development sectors approach the issues of gender-based violence and stereotyping with adolescent participants. SAGI goes beyond the physical health and well-being benefits to build the capacity, resilience and leadership of adolescents of all genders to recognize, resist and take action on issues of violence against women and girls in their own families, communities and local institutions.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the important role that technology and innovation can play in the sport for development sector, especially in increasing access to knowledge resources, strengthening online/remote programming, and equipping practitioners and participants with practical digital literacy skills.”

While SAGI leverages technology to deliver these benefits, it also acknowledges the current digital divide that prevents large sections of society from accessing digital resources. As such, PSD and MFF stated, “interventions that infuse technology and innovation in the sport sector must increase access to technology and digital resources, for marginalised stakeholders.”

Move4Life: Life Skills Through Sport and Physical Activity (Dynamic Development Solutions, South Africa and Namibia)

The Move4Life resource is designed to promote physical, cognitive, social and emotional development through sport and physical activity. Citing lack of facilities and equipment as one of the primary barriers to participation, Dynamic Development Solutions (DDS) highlights that the resource has been designed for a home environment, with minimal space and equipment.

“An associated benefit of home-based programmes is the increased participation of families and friends in the social bubble. There is thus an opportunity to obtain valuable social development outcomes, by building family and community relationships and interactions, while at the same time getting adults physically active.”

While a digital divide remains a challenge, offline resources for home-based activities can ensure that access to the benefits of sport and physical activity does not depend on uncapped, high-speed data. In this regard, the Move4Life resource calls for an inclusive rebuild of the sport and physical activity sector post COVID-19 to ensure that participation across communities is not compromised solely due to limited access to technology.

Elderly Fitness (Active Mauritius)

COVID-19 has had a severe impact on the elderly, in the form of disproportionately high rates of fatality, social isolation, and reduced ability to undertake the recommended levels of physical activity. As countries continue to review and update guidelines on restrictions and return to activity, the elderly are being specifically advised to continue to adhere to strict lockdowns and social distancing protocols, particularly if they have other acute or chronic health conditions.

Given the high mortality and morbidity rates in older people as highlighted by the pandemic, the Elderly Fitness program was created by Active Mauritius to raise awareness of the benefits of physical activity among elderly populations. The creators recognise how “staying active both mentally and physically is extremely important as we age.”

“Among older people, regular exercise has a life-changing effect. The wide-ranging benefits of physical activity include improving your health and resilience, keeping you strong, mobile and independent for longer, and making you feel good about yourself. Leading a health-conscious lifestyle also helps reduce healthcare costs.”

The programme seeks to improve emotional well-being, self-esteem, and quality of life while helping to create social bonds.

Staying Physically Active through the Life Cycle (Sport for Life)

Sport for Life has used its PLAYBuilder platform to develop resources in order to increase the percentage of children and youth choosing to stay active through the school years, in order to scale participation in sport and physical activity through the life cycle. The creators believe that access to positive experiences in supportive environments can lead to lifelong benefits.

The resource seeks to enhance physical literacy, which focuses on motivation, confidence, competence and knowledge to embed physical activity as a long-term part of life. The resource includes activities and lessons plans aligned to the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

The Commonwealth Moves resources are available in online and offline formats to enhance access to the benefits of sport and physical activity. The resources have been designed to ensure easy adaptation of principles by existing sport for development programmes, and to limit any additional human resource implication.

For further information on the Commonwealth Moves initiative, please contact the Commonwealth Sport for Development and Peace team at


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Saurabh Mishra


Tuesday, March 23, 2021 - 07:37