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Remembering Brighton: How did it all begin?

Remembering Brighton: How did it all begin?

In the final session of the IWG World Conference on Women and Sport, Dr. Anita White, one of the founding members gave a potted history of the event’s roots.

Dr. Anita White is a former PE teacher who holds a masters and PhD. She is the founder of the Anita White Foundation, which aims to develop future female leaders in sport. And she is one of the masterminds behind the World Conference on Women and Sport, which began in Brighton, United Kingdom, in 1994.

In the final keynote speech of the IWG Conference on Women in Sport, she gave the audience a sense of the mood at the time. She divided her description of the history into three questions.

Why did we decide to hold it at that time?

It was about seizing the opportunity; the moment was right. In 1994, White was in her late 40s and changed career from running a sports degree at Chichester University. She became Head of Development at the British Sports Council, making her one of only a few women in senior positions either there or at other sport organisation.

White had been an activist and set up a women’s sport foundation. The Sport’s Council decided to invite her to join them rather than have her criticising. Part of her work was to work on development projects, mainly in Europe and Commonwealth countries.

The women in sport movement seemed to be moving forward. A European network was formed while policies and conferences were held in New Zealand, Australia and Canada. There seemed to be growing awareness of the issue around the world and White wanted to accelerate the process of change. It was a good time to connect to share experience and learn from others around the world.

Who were we?

Most of the organisers were senior women in sports organisations at universities. There were also representatives of sports councils in Australia, New Zealand and Canada. White and the other founding members had to persuade their bosses to support it.

They were ultimately successful. The British Sports Council supported the idea and White had the organisational mapping and resources to move forward. Others persuaded their employers to contribute to planning and send senior delegates.

White had no idea how it would turn out. At the time she was advised to keep it small, but the way it has developed since is very exciting.

What were the main outcomes of the Brighton Conference?

The main outcome was the Brighton Declaration, which set out ten principles for advancing women’s rights in sport. Those principles still help guide the women and sport movement. It was drafted before the conference and the goal was to provide a framework for bringing about change. It was considered carefully and voted on at the conference. The declaration was signed by 270 organisations. It has helped contribute to successes such as the Beijing Platform for Action being amended to include sport and physical education.

The International Working Group on Women and Sport was also created as a result of the Brighton Declaration. It wasn’t planned before the event but it became apparent that the energy of the conference needed to be used to drive things forward. An informal network of representatives around the world supported by a secretariat was created.

At the end of the conference, Namibia’s minister of sport stood up: “You’re all invited to Namibia in four years’ time.” A second conference hadn’t been expected but everyone applauded, and they went to Windhoek in 1998.

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Monday, May 21, 2018 - 13:04