« Promoting physical activity as a tool for resilience »
Since the 1st of July 2021, Slovenia has held the presidency of the Council of the European Union. Simona Kustec, Minister of Education, Science and Sport, presents her roadmap for these six months, before handing over to France, which will hold the EU presidency in the first half of 2022.
What are Slovenia’s working themes for the six months of its Presidency and how does sport fit into these priorities ?
SK : Slovenian Presidency Overall Priorities are focused in recovery and resilience plan (e.g. Covid-19 and far above) of a strong EU, framed on a credible and secure European Union, capable of ensuring security and stability in its neighbourhood, common EU values and rules of law, equal criteria for all, respecting contemporary and future challenges of green and digital world.
Speaking from sport perspective this means a promotion of the values of the European sport model, life-long, life long physical activity, Sport Dual careers of athletes and EU role in WADA. As you can see sport through its purest principles in a way represents a symbolic guide for our common recovery and resilience plan. If you want to be strong and united, you need to have a clever strategy, work hard as a team, play fair and with respect.
Several events have been or will be organised during our Presidency. Particularly a conference on lifelong physical activity (24 September) and the meeting of the Education Youth Culture and Sport Council on 30 November.
« AN APP TO ENCOURAGE A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE »
At the end of September, under your presidency, an important event was held for all those involved in sport in Europe : the European Week of Sport. How did you take up this event ?
SK : The package of events at Bled (Slovenia) starting from the 22nd of September 2021 covers 4 events : the Sport DG Meeting starting, followed by EWOS initial events, with the official opening ceremony and celebration of the Slovenian National Day of Sport (23rd of September). The package ends with the Conference on Lifelong Physical Activity on the Friday (24th of September). The whole package was devoted to sport and health related activities and discussions among experts and politicians. The evening ceremonies and celebrations will be marked by the European Union and other international sports organisations’ highest officials as well as Slovenian highest authorities’ participation.
Slovenia also joined the European Commission Initiative “Healthy Lifestyle for All”, launched on 23 September at Bled, with a pledge towards finding solutions for encouraging children and adolescents, as well as adults, to be physically active. We are developing a very special mobile phone application which was presented for the first time on this event. We believe that also that kind of digital app tool will enable the fundamental information as well as motivation for everyone of us to monitor our physical activity capabilities on a daily basis.
We believe that this is one of the approaches how to bring physical activity closer to the younger and also a bit older generations and try to attract those who have not been in favour of sport and physical activity yet to change their attitude and life style into a more active and healthy one.
« WE ARE NOT MAKING AS MANY WOMEN’S SPORT ROLE MODELS AS MEN’S »
One of the key priorities of the Slovenian presidency is the recovery from the COVID crisis. How could sport be included in this support ?
SK : Sport and health go hand in hand together ! In this regard the purpose of the events hosted by the Slovenian Presidency in the field of sport is to promote an active lifestyle and to ensure the awareness of the important contribution that sport can make not only to each of us, but also to Europe’s social and environmentally sustainable growth as well to the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and future resilience.
Scientifically proven facts are that physical inactivity is causing extensive health problems in today’s lifestyle. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has ranked physical inactivity second on the list of mortality factors. COVID-19 period has been showing us an additionally important role of physical activity in times of crisis, especially health related. On one side many people discovered sport activity in this time as a kind of a ‘natural medicine’ to overcome those times and stay physically and mentally fit, while on the other side some of them found themselves in such a distress that they put their sport activity completely aside. European policies need to encourage Member States to promote physical activity as one of the very important resilience tools for our people and societies. Therefore we need to support the creation and promotion of lifelong physical activity programmes and various monitoring systems with which we will measure physical fitness, compare the results in time, between generations, nations and evaluate the effects physical activity has on the health of our people.
It is crucial to do it together, with a dialogue, exchange of good practices, joint projects with all the involved stakeholders, from EU member states, EU institutions to sport organisations and movements to experts, academia, researchers, media.
This journal has a special feature on the feminisation of sport professions. Do you have specific public policies on this subject in Slovenia ?
SK : As a society, also at the EU level, we still have a lot of homework to do here! A gap between words on a paper and facts in practice is in some cases So huge that it is simply indecent, hypocritical. Just look at the rate of women representatives in sport authority bodies, especially those on top positions, further, on the rate of women athletes in this regard, payment inequalities, abuses in sport in relation to gender, if I mention just the most ‘striking’ ones.
In Slovenia the gender equality issue and equal opportunities for women in society and in sport is unfortunately similar. We do have some mini projects, NOC has a special Commission for women in sport, there are some media series and portraits of women’s sport and after sport careers. But, all this is not enough, while the real life practice frequently shows different picture, even with public discreditations, humiliation or complete ignorance of women in top leading positions in sport. We are not making as many women’s sport role models as men’s. This is a question of culture, of respect, of the capability to live the principles of gender equality. Personally, I am an advocate of the fairness approach to gender equality. The concepts either of “masculinity” or “feminisation” are not close to my mind and heart. As social beings we just need to grow up and give everybody equal and fair opportunities. On the way to this ideal I see two main ways in contemporary times : speaking loudly and constantly – about role model cases and about inequalities and unfairness in every-day life; and pursuing the measures of gender quota on all levels to help understanding the importance of gender balanced contribution for strong and resilient societies of the future.