“Make Sport more equal for women and girls”

A former MEP, Emine Bozkurt has worked extensively on civil rights, gender equality and especially on sport. Today, as Chair of the High-Level Group on Gender Equality in Sport, she presents the action plan and recommendations presented in 2022.

Interview by Simon Laville


Why did you feel the necessity to develop such an Action plan at this moment?  According to you why sport is such an important tool?

Sport is the reflexion of society and should be therefore accessible to all. Sport has the ability to empower women and girls, and participation in sport affecting participation in other sectors of society. So, if you don’t have gender equality in sport, it will reflect on what happens on society.

Female participation in sport and equal treatment at all levels are among the European Commission’s main priorities but achieving gender equality remains a work in progress. Commissioner Gabriel launched the Hight level Group on gender equality in Sport in 2021. There was a need to produce a new report and work on gender equality in sport to move faster and accelerate the pace of reform.

What are the highlights of the report?

The action plan is structured in two parts. The first part is devoted to 8 topics applicable to all main themes. We have developed these eight topics, in order to collect data and to have an overview of the subject.  The second part focuses on the key thematic areas (6 have been identified) and is divided into three parts: presentation of the current situation, recommendations, and proposals for action for stakeholders, namely the European Commission, EU Member States, sports federations and grassroots sports. The idea is that when looking at the six key thematic areas, it is important to keep in mind the eight cross-cutting recommendations. Within each thematic area, there are recommendations or ‘ways forward’ that are directly linked to these cross-cutting recommendations.

“The work of the experts will lead to concrete actions at local, national, and European level.”

What do you propose to encourage women’s participation in physical activity and sport? How does this relate to women’s leadership? 

According to the Eurobarometer on Sport and Physical Activity, women are less likely than men to participate in sport in Europe. Although there are significant differences between Member States, women’s participation in sport is still lower than that of men. According to recent scientific literature, this gender gap is due to practical, personal and socio-cultural barriers. To achieve equal participation in sport, we have developed 4 recommendations: “Mainstream gender equality across all sport policies and strategies”; “Create gender equality action plans and earmark funding to advance opportunities for participation in sport for all girls and women”; Guarantee equal access to resources; Monitoring and evaluation on progress/implementation.

Also, to achieve equal participation, we need to act on women’s leadership. Indeed, the various struggles to achieve equality must come from the top and actions must be initiated by the leaders of sports organisations. Thus, more women at the top of a sports organisation can only be beneficial, in order to represent women at every level.

Our review focuses on the prevention of and fight against sexist and sexual violence in sport. What are your recommendations in this regard?

Today, it is one of the highest priority issues because gender-based violence is present in and outside sport and therefore needs to be addressed as a priority. Gender-based violence can be physical, sexual or psychological, and it is more women than men who are victims. It is essential to create a safe environment. It is important to take adequate measures such as implementing education and prevention programmes at all levels. Also, leaders, as sports leaders in organisations, need to commit to ending sexual harassment and violence.  Data is also important to monitor the situation. Whistleblowing mechanisms need to be rethought, as well as better collaboration between stakeholders to facilitate an exchange of good practice.

And finally, will you evaluate the efficiency of this plan?

It is now a great desire for us to evaluate the efficiency of the action plan. First of all, we want to focus on the importance of communication, to get feedback on its format, its guidelines, etc. So far, we have received a lot of positive feedback on the structure of the document, its readability and usability. We have also insisted that the document be translated into all the languages of the Member States so that it can be shared and read by all.

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Sport et citoyenneté