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NEWS: WISPA responds to IWG ‘Call to Action’ – COVID-19

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IWG declares COVID-19 a significant threat and asks organisations to champion gender equity throughout recovery and re-build.

The Women in Sport Aotearoa Board has agreed to respond to the ‘Call to Action’ issued by the International Working Group (IWG) on Women & Sport, last night.

The IWG has declared COVID-19 to be a significant threat to the ‘women in sport and physical activity’ movement globally. It has asked organisations to champion gender equity throughout the recovery and re-build phases, citing five key areas – Wellbeing, Safety, Resource, Leadership and Structure.

Rachel Froggatt, CEO, said: “Women in Sport Aotearoa is Secretariat for the IWG 2018-2022, and as such, is very close to concerns being raised by the IWG Global Executive.

We do believe that fundamentally, value systems haven’t changed – if a person or organisation believed in and was working toward gender equity in sport and recreation pre COVID-19, they will still see this as important, following it.

Understandably, everyone is currently focussed on their response to the virus, with business continuity a key focus. We agree with the IWG view however, that decisions made about women’s sport now, will have implications for years.

Thus we will continue to work alongside key stakeholders in Aotearoa New Zealand and when the timing is right, help them to access insights and support to protect and grow programmes for women and girls.”

Below is the full statement from the International Working Group (IWG) on Women & Sport.


22 April 2020

IWG responds to COVID-19 with global ‘Call to Action’

On Tuesday 7 April 2020, an extraordinary meeting of the International Working Group (IWG) on Women and Sport was held, bringing together the IWG Global Executive from all over the world.

At the meeting, the IWG Global Executive took the position of declaring the COVID-19 pandemic to be a significant threat to the ‘women in sport and physical activity’ movement, globally.

The Executive also agreed the position, given IWG’s alignment and ongoing commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, that COVID-19 has the potential to negatively impact work towards gender equality, worldwide.

The extraordinary meeting was chaired by IWG Co-Chair for New Zealand, Raewyn Lovett.

Eight of the 13 IWG Global Executive members joined live, including the Regional Representatives from Africa, Asia and Europe, along with the representative from the International Association of Physical Education and Sport for Girls and Women (IAPESGW) and Co-Opted Members.

Since this meeting, the remaining members, including the Regional Representatives from the Americas and Oceania and the member from WomenSport International (WSI) have been consulted and agreed with the two positions.

Global Call to Action

The IWG Global Executive has now resolved to issue a global ‘Call to Action’, encouraging the nearly 600 Signatories to the Brighton plus Helsinki 2014 Declaration on Women & Sport to lead the world by example as they recover and rebuild. The Signatories, in signing this treaty, committed themselves to 10 principles ensuring development of a culture that enables and values the full involvement of women and girls in every aspect of sport and physical activity.

The 1st Principle of the Brighton + Helsinki 2014 Declaration on Women & Sport reads as follows.

  1. Every effort should be made by state and government to ensure that institutions and organisations responsible for sport and physical activity comply with the equality provisions of the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Declaration of Berlin (UNESCO MINEPS V) and the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
  2. Equal opportunity to participate and be involved in sport and physical activity, whether for the purpose of leisure and recreation, health promotion or high performance, is the right of every woman, whatever her race, colour, language, religion, creed, sexual orientation or identity, age, marital status, ability/disability, political belief or affiliation, national or social origin.
  3. Resources, power and responsibility should be allocated fairly and without discrimination on the basis of sex or gender, but such allocation should redress any inequitable balance in the benefits available to women and men.

The IWG recognises that in the past, sport and physical activity has contributed to awareness and support during crisis situations such as Ebola, Cholera and HIV/AIDS among others.

Signatories are urged to leverage their skills, resources, and networks to contribute relevant responses to support the wellbeing of their female membership and diverse communities in the context of COVID-19 recovery and rebuild.

In particular, the IWG Global Executive is asking Signatories to become active champions for gender equity amongst global peers and to encourage those that have not yet signed up to the Declaration, to do so, and to take the opportunity to re-develop organisations to be more inclusive of women and girls and diverse communities as a whole.

Ultimately, women and girls make up just over 50% of the world’s population and yet to date, have remained significantly under-represented in all parts of sport and physical activity. With all Signatories in support, IWG believes that COVID-19 crisis could be turned from a negative to a positive opportunity to design an equal future for all. 

The IWG Global Executive identified five potential areas of concern for women and girls due to COVID-19 and opportunities for Signatories to drive positive change in the future:

Area One: Wellbeing


The impact on the physical and mental wellbeing of women who are currently in “lockdown” (experiencing reduced movement).


The IWG encourages a return to ‘out-of-home’ physical activity as soon as safe but in the meantime, applauds the work of Signatories that are encouraging ‘in-home’ movement.

Area Two: Safety


The emergence of wider social issues, such as widely documented increases in domestic violence globally and economic impacts moving women and girls into poverty, may lead to lower participation in sport and physical activity.


The IWG asks that Signatories redevelop their business models during recovery with a clear focus on providing safe activity and facilities for female participants and diverse communities.

Area Three: Resource


The possibility that money and resource may be taken out of women’s sport and physical activity to support men’s sport and physical activity or women’s development may be put aside, as “not a priority” due to budget.


The IWG strongly encourages Signatories to plan a recovery phase for both men’s and women’s sport and physical activity in an equitable fashion, reducing spend and resourcing fairly across both areas, and also carefully planning a timeline for the revival of both.

Area Four: Leadership


The drive toward stronger diversity at the boardroom table in sport and physical activity may stall, with organisations reverting to the old ways, “out of comfort”.


The pandemic has highlighted examples of the value of female leadership in these difficult times and it is a model to follow in sport leadership in the future. The IWG asks Signatories to carefully consider and promote the positive impact that diversity of thought and experience has in helping them successfully face this challenge, and in re-designing the future of their organisation, by including the contribution of women but also diverse communities.

Area Five: Structure


The risk that the sector may seek to “re-build” what was previously there, rather than “re-imagine” the structure to become more inclusive of diverse communities.


The IWG encourages Signatories to plan new ways of working that include women and girls and diverse communities safely and equitably. In particular, the IWG believes there is an opportunity for Signatories to assist in “re-imagining” delivery of quality physical education for girls in ALL schools, ALL around the world.


The IWG Global Executive wishes to acknowledge all front-line workers around the world, especially heathcare workers and carers, police, fire and emergency services, for their extraordinary work in fighting the COVID-19 virus globally.

Stay safe everyone.

The International Working Group (IWG) on Women & Sport is the world’s largest network dedicated to “Empowering women and girls – Advancing Sport“. It is fully aligned to the 17x United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, in particular SDG 5: “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”. Established in 1994, the IWG developed and remains guardian of the Brighton plus Helsinki 2014 Declaration, which now has nearly 600 signatories. The IWG is governed by the IWG Global Executive. It advocates for gender equity year-round, running programmes including the Insight Hub. Every four years, it stages the IWG World Conference, the world’s largest gathering of experts on gender equity in sport and physical activity, with 1200+ delegates. The current IWG Secretariat 2018 – 2022 is held by New Zealand. The 8th IWG World Conference will take place in Auckland, New Zealand, 5-8 May 2022. The IWG is a not-for-profit with funding from a mix of Grants & TrustsDonations, Fundraising & Gifts and Commercial Partnerships. You can help too, visit Support Us. Visit About to learn more and to meet team.

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