Challenges Gender Norms

At the root of gender-based violence lies gender imbalance. Part of regaining esteem and community status for survivors of GBV involves women attaining social power. Sport is a public-facing display of strength. Due to the fact that sport is still largely considered a male domain, women’s participation automatically challenges gender stereotypes – confronting traditional scripts of “a woman’s place”. The sports field is a place where values such as competition and assertiveness are respected. The increased self-worth and physical prowess fostered by sports can help survivors of GBV to be more assertive and defy future threats of GBV. When a woman starts to occupy a space formerly reserved for men, her sense of what is within her capabilities is strengthened. Likewise, when community members see women and girls competing and performing, there is an opportunity for them to question the underlying assumptions of strict gender codes.

Programmatic Tip

Obviously, not all men inflict violence on women. However, as noted earlier, because most perpetrators of gender-based violence against women are men, it is critical that men play a role in improving the situation. "Men are best suited to clarify why the stresses of conflict generate more violence against women".[82]

Engage men as allies in the effort to promote the benefits of more equitable gender relationships for the whole community and promote positive male models. Sport programmes should not underestimate the importance, the challenge, and the time needed to change men’s beliefs about gender norms. Do not to focus exclusively on negative messages about young men; instead, emphasize the positive benefits of gender equity and non-violence for both men and women. Endorse and support activities exclusively aimed at boosting men’s awareness of the issues of GBV. This may act as a protective measure against the further spread of violence against women at family and community levels. In addition, education and awareness programmes benefit greatly from male participation, particularly as instructors and peer counsellors. For further information, see Engaging Boys and Men.


[82]Save the Children, 2004 supra nt. 27