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Addressing gender inequality in sport

Monday, March 19, 2018

One of the measures to assess the success of the National Policy on Sport 2017-2027 will be the collection of quantitative and qualitative data on the participation rates of women and girls in every aspect of sport on and off the field according to age, religion, ethnicity, geographical location, social class and disability. There is no denying that women and girls involvement in sport has grown over the years especially with successes in various disciplines such as athletics, netball, cricket, and football, however, more has to be done to level the playing field.

According Messner (1998) the “women's movement into sport represents a genuine quest by women for equality, control of their own bodies, and self-definition, and as such it represents a challenge to the ideological basis of male domination.”

Birrell and Theberge (1994), state that the structure of sport and physical activities in society is informed by:

*Sport being an institution which privileges men and boys

*A sexist ideology and stereotypes which disadvantage women and girls in sport


The1994 Brighton Declaration on Women and Sport was adopted by Trinidad and Tobago to promote gender equality in sport in society through greater participation of women as athletes, officials and administrators. The 'Women and Girls in Sport' was direct result of this adoption but it was just a one day event!

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Charter, adopted in 2004, states that one of the roles of the Committee is to “encourage and support the promotion of women in sport at all levels and in all structures with a view to implementing the principle of equality of men and women.”

Lydia Nsekera of Burundi created history by becoming the first ever woman to be elected to FIFA's Executive Committee in 2013. Annette Knott became the first woman Secretary General of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee in 2013. In 2014, Becky Hammon became the first full-time, salaried woman coach in NBA history and 2016, Debbie Hockey became the first woman president of the New Zealand board in its 122-year history.

These are significant individual examples of change, however, they do not represent patterned changes. Institutional frameworks have been instituted to facilitate gender equality but the changes have not been widespread and have not challenged the patriarchal normalisation of sport. Time will tell if the national policy on sport 2017-2027 is a catalyst for greater gender equity in sport in Trinidad and Tobago.


"I don't feel it is necessary to know exactly what I am. The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning." Michel Foucault



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