In 2007, Women Win was founded on the belief that sport could be a game changer for girls and young women to access their rights, develop confidence and become leaders. Women Win's founder, Astrid Aafjes, attended a half-marathon in Casablanca, Morocco, and saw first hand how sport gave women the opportunity to take up public space that they otherwise wouldn't have, changed the perceptions from the community of those woman, and built confidence and self-esteem in those runners. From inception, Women Win made it part of our mission to bring the message that sport is a unique and effective tool in women's empowerment to a global audience.
Three years later, Astrid and Women Win Executive Director, Maria Bobenrieth, met with Laxmi Puri of UN Women, to bring the case for sport forward. These conversations sparked interest, and laid the ground work for a deep relationship between UN Women and Women Win. Together we have spoken on panels advocating for more sport opportunities for girls, and have launched a project together in Brazil targeting some of the most at-risk girls through sport and life-skills programmes.
Jennifer Cooper from UN Women says, "In 2012 I was invited to an event featuring the work of Women Win and had the chance to meet some of the programme participants, the Executive Director, and the Founder. Women Win's work provided a proven programatic framework for how we could combine sports and life skills for girls for deep and lasting change, which we could present to the International Olympic Committee. UN Women would bring in the necessary national and local partners for sustainability and scale up. Now we are implementing "One Win Leads to Another" with 2500 girls in Rio as a legacy programme for the 2016 Olympic Games in partnership with the IOC and Women Win, with plans to continue scaling up after the first pilot phase.
This partnership has been a push factor in UN Women's steadily deepening engagement with sports and our strategy is three fold: Increase women's leadership and voice within sports organisations to improve policies for gender equality; Improve the ways sports institutions deliver for women and girls - including equal opportunities to play; and promote changes in attitudes and behaviors by showing women and girls as capable agents on and off of the field. And now the UN Women Executive Director is pushing this strategy as a recognised global champion with the IOC and beyond; UN Women is developing partnerships with more and more sports organisations – including Women Win; and the momentum and enthusiasm for sports within the organisation have increased exponentially with no signs of slowing down. This is definitely a winning strategy!"
Today, we are proud to see UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka speak out publically for sport as a tool to reach and empower girls and women, and end discrimination. Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka says, "More than any other sector, sports have demonstrated that women are equal." She encourages the sport world is to continue being role models by inspiring their fans and followers to do good.
Watch the full video from the International Olympic Committee below.