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Top athletes unite to promote women in sport

08:58 12/10/2020
From Flanders Today

Nine of Belgium’s best-known women athletes have joined forces to promote gender equality in sport. Under the banner Empowering Women in Sports they will push for greater awareness of women’s sport and promote initiatives to get women and girls involved in activities at every level.

“We need to encourage women to take an active role in sport, and also give them the tools to do this practically and successfully,” said international basketball player Ann Wauters. “Our group of athletes is determined to develop concrete actions that increase the number of women in sports.”

In addition to Wauters, the group consists of Gella Vandecaveye (judo), Evi Van Acker (sailing), Kimberly Buys (swimming), Elfje Willemsen (bobsled), Nicky Degrendele (cycling), and the track and field athletes Tia Hellebaut, Kim Gevaert and Gitte Haenen.

Called the Game Changers, they will work with the Women & Sports Taskforce of the Team Belgium Olympic committee to identify barriers that stop women participating in sport and start initiatives that improve gender equality.

Some of these barriers are flagged up in a survey of 214 female athletes, coaches, officials and others involved in Team Belgium. This found that the profile of women’s sport is seen as a problem, with only 23% able to say that sportswomen receive the same media attention as their male counterparts.

Next comes pay, with 72% saying that women athletes were at a financial disadvantage compared to men. Finally, 68% thought that women were under-represented in sporting organisations.

Initiatives planned by Empowering Women in Sports include awareness-raising through interviews with current and former athletes, officials and coaches. There will also be promotional activities led by athletes in schools and sport clubs, training days, networking events and other events on gender equality.

These initiatives will be organised in close collaboration with other organisations such as Sport Vlaanderen, Adeps and various sporting federations. As for the Game Changers, the idea is that the group will expand to include other women athletes who want to work on the initiative, as well as sportsmen who want to show their solidarity.

Photo: Nicky Degrendele is a track cycling world champion
©Courtesy Team Belgium

Written by Ian Mundell (Flanders Today)