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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Summary Report: 2017 International Conference on Women and Sport - APEC Sports Policy Network (ASPN)

Gary.Chen

     The "2017 International Conference on Women and Sport" organized by Chinese Taipei was held in Taipei on October 12, 2017, and was attended by 15 government sports officials, experts and athletes from 10 APEC member economies.
     
     The invited speakers included Ms. Natalya Sipovich, chairwoman of the Women and Sports Committee of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA); Ms. Vickie Saunders, founder of The Sponsorship Consultants; Ms. Catherine Raper, Representative of the Australian Office, Taipei; Dr. Andi Rahman, head of International Relations at the Indonesian Ministry of Youth and Sports; Dr. Yoriko Noguchi, head of International Relations at the Japan Sport Council; Ms. Haslina Binti Abdul Hamid, deputy secretary-general of the Malaysian Ministry of Youth and Sports; Ms. Sharon Wee, director and co-founder of Sport Warrior Global; Ms. Janet Gimots, director of the National Sports Institute of Papua New Guinea; Ms. Celia H. Kiram, commissioner of the Philippine Sports Commission; Ms. Peggy Tng, deputy director of the Singapore Sports Institute, Prof. Supitr Samahito, member of the OCA Women and Sports Committee; and Ms. Le Thi Hoang Yen, deputy director-general of the Vietnam Sports Administration. The speakers from Chinese Taipei included  Dr. Yu-Hsien Tseng of National Taiwan University;

Opening Ceremony of the "2017 International Conference on Women and Sport"

Dr. Chiung-Tzu Lucetta Tsai of National Taipei University; Ms. Yi-An Chen, founder of AnnChen Handmade Soap; and Ms. Maggie Hsu, director of the Sports Administration of the Ministry of Education. 

     The increasing international focus on promoting gender equality has helped draw attention to the question of how to advance the participation of women in sports in line with women's own experiences and needs. The Brighton Declaration in 1994 and the Helsinki Declaration in 2014 both
stressed that governments should ensure that institutions and organizations responsible for the development of sports and physical activities offer equal opportunities to men and women and distribute resources without discrimination. Against this background, representatives from all APEC
economies gathered in Taipei to discuss the development of women's sports through education policy, and how public-private-partnerships might serve to increase women's participation and visibility in sports. 

Cultivating women's sports habits through education policy

     Social expectations and stereotypes in many Asian economies discourage women's participation in sports and their development of related habits. According to a survey conducted by the Indonesian Ministry of Youth and Sports, one out of four Indonesian citizens exercise regularly, but most of those who do are male. To improve the situation, government organizations in Indonesia are promoting the benefits of regular exercise and encouraging women to participate in sports through mass media initiatives. Authorities in Indonesia have also launched programs to train women as sports administrators and managers.

     Earlier this year, officials from Chinese Taipei published a "Women's Sports Participation Advocacy White Paper," with the aims of nurturing healthy women, empowering women through sports, and building a sports environment friendly to women. The white paper, as a blueprint for engaging women in sports, proposes a 10-year program to boost women's sports participation and achieve gender equality in the field by using mass media outlets to foster more positive attitudes about engagement.

     Malaysia, for its part, has adopted a "One Student One Sport" policy together with other initiatives designed to ensure that all students, including and especially female students, have access to sports and develop sports habits in the early stages of their lives. The Philippines, in contrast, is seeking to improve sports participation among female students using equal incentives and sports scholarships. Several women-only programs like the "Women's Martial Arts Event" and the "Inter Government Agency Female Sports Festival" were also launched in the Philippines to bring women
together through participation in physical activity and sports.

     In Vietnam, the Women and Sports Commission, as a dedicated government agency, collaborates with the Vietnam Olympic Committee (VOC) to deliver positive press about women in sports, and to ensure that women have access to sports. The outstanding international sporting achievements of female Vietnamese athletes, together with incentives provided by the country's authorities, have encouraged more Vietnamese women to take up sports themselves. Papua New Guinea, for its part, has posted considerable progress in terms of encouraging women's participation in sport. Its success in hosting the U20 Women's World Cup has motivated more women there to play sports and has boosted their confidence to succeed in sporting disciplines. There are also examples of women in Papua New Guinea who have taken up important positions in the field of sports.

Public-private partnership to increase women's participation and visibility in sports

     Women's participation in sports is influenced by many factors. Perhaps the most important factor is that many women come under pressure to prioritize family affairs, and as a result forego opportunities to participate in sports. A friendly sports environment is another key to boosting women's willingness to take part in sports, which in turn can help women gain confidence at home and in the workplace. Lastly, conventional career planning for women also serves as a barrier to participation. For these reasons, a public-private partnership may serve as an important means by which to increase women's participation in sports and strengthen the link between women and sports. For instance, the "Athlete Career Program," a cooperative program between the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee and Adecco, aims to provide co-marketing services in athlete career development in order to help retired athletes cultivate skills for a new career. Through this program, former taekwondo fighter Yi-An Chen started a new career running a handmade soap business after retiring from martial arts competition. It is hoped that the availability of such resources will convince more women to participate in sports.

     Japanese authorities are now working with figures in the country's business sector to provide a flexible environment in which women can work and compete in sports at the same time. This year in Japan saw the launch of Premium Sport Friday, a program under which employees are allowed to work shorter hours on Fridays in order to participate in sporting events with their families. The Singapore Sports Hub initiative, set up under the Singapore Sports Council's Vision 2030 ("Living Better through Sports"), aims to develop a Silicon Valley of Sports, with extensive facilities, sports halls and green spaces for both leisure and non-sports-related entertainment that can let entire families, including women, participate in sports activities. 

     The Australian government strongly supports female empowerment and gender equality, both domestically and internationally. Through sponsorship, as well as through commercial, personal and social development initiatives, Australia is working to increase the presence of women in the sports world. For example, sponsorships can help female athletes in various ways, such as by letting them serve as company ambassadors, pursue marketing and customer engagement, and build relationships with charities to create value for both athletes and their sponsors, generating social impacts that go beyond sports. These sponsorships let more female athletes serve as potential role models for women, and help encourage more women to participate in sports.

     International sports organizations have also been active in furthering women's participation in sports. The Olympic Council of Asia established a Women and Sport Committee in 2003, which was charged with the responsibility of assisting in the development of women's activities at the Asian Games and cooperating with existing sports organizations to foster and promote the values of sports among women. In addition, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has made great progress in promoting gender equality in sports. Its "Olympics Agenda 2020" has set a target of 50 percent female participation in the Olympics and Asian Games, a goal which is to be pursued at international sporting events of all levels. Last but not least, continuing dialogue and cooperation within the APEC community is also helping raise awareness on the issue of promoting women's engagement in sports, and promises more opportunities for women to take leadership roles in sports administration in the region.


(Gary.Chen.is.an.Assistant.Research.Fellow.at.the.Taiwan.Institute.of.Economic.Research)

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