Equal opportunities in society and sports by STEADY project
The majority of disabled people face poverty and discrimination. However, disabled refugees face double vulnerability: "They are among the most marginalized in an already disposed group" (Refugees International, 2003).
The unique ability of sports to transcend linguistic, cultural and social barriers makes it an excellent platform for strategies of inclusion and adaptation. Furthermore, the universal popularity of sport and its physical, social and economic development benefits make it an ideal tool for fostering the inclusion and wellbeing of persons with disabilities.
Sports as a Tool of Empowerment for dis-Abled Displaced Youth (STEADY) is an ongoing project that has a duration of three years (2019-2021) and is funded by the Erasmus+ Sport Program of the European Commission. The STEADY project focuses on changing the paradigm, bringing migrants and refugees with disabilities from the margins to become integral members of the sporting community.
The vision of the STEADY project is to increase sports participation of displaced youth with disabilities by promoting volunteering and equal access of migrants and minorities to organised and grassroots sport.
STEADY mainly works to combat violence and tackle racism, discrimination and intolerance, and encourages social inclusion and equal opportunities in sport.
Nine partners from eight European countries – the Hellenic Paralympic Committee and Equal Society from Greece, Attivamente from Italy, Serbian Paralympic Committee from Serbia, Vienna Institute for International Dialogue and Cooperation (VIDC) from Austria, Play and Train from Spain, Centro Social de Soutelo (CSS) from Portugal, Footura from Bulgaria and Agitos Foundation, the development arm of International Paralympic Committee (IPC) – participate in the STEADY project and collaborate on:
- Conducting a baseline study to investigate the European reality in relation to the inclusion of migrants and refugees with disabilities in sports
- Developing a wide network of promoting equal opportunities of young migrants and minorities with disabilities in sport
- Involving refugees with disabilities to a greater extent in the promotion of sport for all, in cooperation with sports organisations, especially in order to reach a younger population and reduce intolerance and discrimination
- Involving social sector and national human rights institutions to a greater extent in combating discrimination in sport, cooperating in running awareness-raising activities, and authorising these bodies to participate in legal actions brought to improve access to sport for all
- Showcasing best practices from across Europe at international, state and local levels
- Presenting how Paralympic committees, & NGOs can use sport as a tool to cultivate tolerance and social inclusion
Through the STEADY project, partners and interested stakeholders will increase their knowledge about the range of factors that affect refugees with disabilities in participating in physical activity, and how sport can be used to develop inclusive sports programs.
All partners develop pilot actions that aim to organize and study the techniques and practices that can enhance the participation of displaced youth with disabilities in sports. Pilot actions include:
- Locating and engaging displaced youth with disabilities in disability sports programs.
- Increasing participation of displaced youth with disabilities in the European Week of Sports and a STEADY Action Week that will be organized in 2021
- Implementing grassroots actions for displaced youth with disabilities
- Training ambassadors from voluntary and/or sport organizations to use sports as a tool for empowerment of displaced youth with disabilities
- Organizing round tables and workshops that will promote the innovation programs to local and national authorities and donors.
- Running a media project that will support the integration of displaced youth with disabilities in sports
The results of the STEADY Project’s studies and activities will be used to develop a report, including policy recommendations, to increase the potential for refugees and migrants with disabilities to get involved in sport programs throughout Europe. The policy recommendations will be simply written policy advice prepared for stakeholders that have the authority to make decisions, whether that is a policymaker, the European Council, the IPC or any other body active in the field of disability sports and social inclusion.
Finally, STEADY has the potential to promote and facilitate sport in migrants and refugees with disabilities by engaging with multiple agencies. Simply ensuring that migrants and refugees with disabilities can attend the same facilities as native citizens with disabilities is not sufficient to guarantee inclusion. Networking, multi-stakeholder engagement, staff knowledge, attitudes and training that STEADY offers are very important. STEADY provides awareness training on inclusion in sport, and serves as a resource to support any kind of organization dealing with refugees and immigrants regarding the inclusion process. STEADY serves as a facilitator to organize individuals and groups to work together to promote the inclusion of displaced and disabled youth and the inclusion of marginalized individuals and groups in sport.
Vassilis Kalyvas is the coordinator of the Hellenic Paralympic Committee.
[This article has been edited by the Operating Team.]