Quick escape
See Categories

The transformative power of sport to promote gender equality

January 25 2019 By Our Watch

You’ve probably noticed that many Australians love their sport.

Sport field Image

For many of us, sport is part of the fabric of our everyday lives. As children or adults, when we participate in, or identify with a sporting team or code, we become part of that team. We’re along for the ride, and we share the emotional ups and downs, the excitements and disappointments, the sense of connection with friends, family – and even strangers.   

Sport influences people’s lives in a range of ways. It’s in the sporting setting, whether that’s the local netball club or elite football, that many children and adults form some of their attitudes, values and expectations. And of course, sports stars enjoy high profiles and are often held up as role models to others, particularly children and young people.  

It’s because sport can involve these deep social and emotional connections that it also has great potential to influence its audiences and effect social change. 

According to the national framework for the primary prevention of violence against women and their children in Australia, sport is also a key setting for the prevention of this violence.  

Why? Partly because it has such a powerful influence on social norms, attitudes and behaviours. But also because sports players and leaders can be influential role models. And because sport provides opportunities to reach large audiences and communities, including women and men, and boys and girls. 

At Our Watch, we seek to harness the positive potential of sport, which is just one of the ways we work to ensure that everywhere we live, learn, work and play is inclusive, equitable, and safe, for everyone. 

For example, we work with schools and universities to create gender-equitable environments and build students’ relationships skills, with the media to improve reporting on family violence and address disrespectful portrayals of women, and with a wide range of workplaces, to build organisations that are firmly grounded in equality and respect. 

In many ways, sports settings are workplaces like any other. Certainly, anyone who works at a sporting organisation should be as entitled to equality, safety and respect as anyone else.

Yet we know disrespectful attitudes and behaviours, and violence towards women all occur within sporting environments – just as they do in many other parts of society. And in some cases sport can be a setting in which violence-supportive attitudes and behaviours are condoned and reproduced. 

Because of the level of influence it has, on people’s lives and on their attitudes and behaviours, sport can play a key role in promoting gender equality and respect and preventing violence against women. Sport can challenge rigid gender stereotypes and roles, provide and promote participation and leadership opportunities for women, challenge violence-supportive attitudes and behaviours, and encourage respectful, healthy and equal relationships on and off the field. 

Sport can also connect boys and girls, men and women with vital information, skills and strategies to help them advocate for inclusive, equitable, healthy and safe sporting spaces in their own networks and communities.  

Our Watch’s aim, through our own work with sporting codes and organisations, is to support and resource clubs and codes with the skills and information needed to lead this challenging but exciting work themselves.  

The sporting bodies and individuals we work with and have worked with include elite Australian athletes, Netball Australia, Rugby Australia, National Rugby League, Australian Football League and Football Federation Australia, and we recognise their commitment to advancing gender equality in Australian sport and communities.

We’re proud to work alongside sporting organisations, codes, communities and partners who share our vision and are committed to leading cultural change within their organisations – change that takes time and courage to achieve.

Together we are working to create an Australia that is safe for, and inclusive of, everyone.

Read more on Our Watch’s Sports Engagement Program.