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Protecting children from harm in sport


Protecting children from harm in sport

sportanddev embarks on a six-part article series on child protection and safeguarding in sport, featuring UNICEF, Moving The Goalposts and former Olympic gymnast Gloria Viseras.

In 2012 an important discussion was put on the agenda of the sport and development community: the question of how those that participate in physical activity and sport can be protected from harm. No distinction needs to be made about whether the sport is played for individual or communal development, whether the participants join the activity primarily for fun, for health, for learning life skills, or for physical excellence. All participants, old and young, female and male, of all abilities and everywhere in the world need to be protected from harm.

Harm can manifest itself in many ways: it is the excluded individual without access due to diverging abilities, it is the picked on peer who is bullied and frightened, it is the overambitious parent or coach overstepping physical and mental limits and it is the unsafe playground. Harm can also be the unchecked pressure to succeed, the overtraining and doping, the brainwashing and belittling in order to manipulate, the physical and sexual abuse that constitute the ultimate infringement on our most precious personal rights.

When the discussion on how to prevent and avoid harm was picked up by a larger number of organisations, it quickly became clear that too little attention was given to the topic in general. The International Working Group on Safeguarding Children in Sport was therefore established, which dedicated its time to formulating guiding principles that are today called safeguards. These safeguards were put to the test in a trial run with a variety of organisations willing to test and provide feedback on the safeguards’ feasibility. Funded by the Oak Foundation, Brunel University backed this testing phase with their academic knowledge and finally, two years later, in November 2014, the eight safeguards were presented to the sport and development community for global roll-out.

The article series that sportanddev presents to you over the next five newsletters provides insights into the underlying reasons why safeguarding is such an important topic. In the second article, it shares with you a courageous testimonial of harm inflicted which takes the theoretical discussion to the cruel reality and visualises the need to be proactive rather than reactive. In the third article, the series outlines how a Kenya-based organisation is tackling the daily reality of rights-based discussions using local communication techniques to advocate and improve children’s rights with a specific focus on young girls.

The fourth article outlines the crucial need for organisational development within international federations and showcases the responsibilities of the international management to encourage and support the national federations and local clubs to put the topic on the agenda despite taboos and fears. The fifth article then takes you to consider the role of international and multilateral organisations such as UN agencies and the Commonwealth in encouraging new policy-standards, requesting governments to embrace the necessary policy-making and control of standards to be lived by. Finally, the sixth article presents the pioneer group of organisations that have gotten behind this issue and their ongoing efforts to prevent children from experiencing harm in sport.

The series seeks to demonstrate the complexity of the issue by breaking it down and making it tangible for the attentive reader. It will hopefully encourage you to take up informed action when lobbying for internationally valid safeguards that will protect the participants of sport and sport for development interventions anywhere in the world. Enjoy your reading and follow us over the coming five newsletters.

South African footballer Amanda Dlamini helped launch the International Safeguards for Children in Sport at the 2014 Beyond Sport Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa:


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Jutta Engelhardt


Wednesday, April 1, 2015 - 10:00