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7 March 2017

Geneva, 7 March 2017 – The United Nations Office at Geneva is gearing up to celebrate International Women’s Day on Wednesday 8 March, with a special focus on gender equality and sports in the wide programme of activities scheduled to take place at the Palais des Nations and downtown Geneva.

The heads of four world sport federations, including the Fédération équestre internationale, the World Archery Federation, the International Hockey Federation and the International University Sports Federation, as well as the Director-General of the International Olympic Committee, will announce their intention to join the International Gender Champions Geneva initiative. Since its launch in Geneva in 2015, more than 120 leaders from the diplomatic and international communities as well as the private sector have taken the Panel Parity Pledge and committed to work towards gender parity in their organizations. (See www.genderchampions.com for more information.)

“Making sport a powerful platform to foster gender equality and empower women is a top priority for the International Olympic Committee,” said its Director-General, Christophe De Kepper, who is among the first leaders in the sports arena to join the International Gender Champions. “Gender equality is not a women’s issue, it’s a team effort. We are all teammates now. As a Geneva Gender Champion, I am committed to support and promote gender equality and women’s empowerment at the IOC.”

For his part, Ingmar de Vos, President of the Fédération équestre internationale, recalled how strict parity between men and women is at the heart of the equestrian sport. Indeed, it is one of the few sports where male and female athletes compete as equals at all levels. “The Fédération équestre internationale is proud to champion the many women competitors, officials, trainers, veterinarians, grooms, administrators, and staff who are a vital part of our diverse multicultural community,” he said. “Their talent, resourcefulness, and hard work contribute immensely to its constant growth, and they deserve our full support."

Michael Møller, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, welcomed the commitment of sports federations to the Gender Champions initiative. “Achieving gender parity is a key objective of the Sustainable Development Goals, and the Gender Champion network is a catalyst for a new way of working across the traditional divide between all entities part of International Geneva,” said the Director General, also noting that “the United Nations General Assembly has recognized that sport is an important enabler of sustainable development.”

Talking gender and sports

On Wednesday, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, Switzerland’s Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva Valentin Zellweger, and State Councillor in the Swiss canton of Vaud Philippe Leuba, who oversees the economy and sports, will be at the Palais des Nations to discuss gender and sports with the heads of nearly 50 international sports federations and international organizations in a private encounter preceding a round-table discussion in the afternoon.

The IOC’s Christophe De Kepper will deliver opening remarks at the round-table event in Room XIX, before BBC journalist David Eades moderates a debate showcasing successful stories of collaboration between the world of sports and international institutions in favour of gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Speakers will also include Marisol Casado, President of the International Triathlon Union and Member of the IOC Commission on women and sports; Linda Kromjoin, Secretary-General of the International Organization of Employers, Majken Gilmartin, Chief Executive Officer of the Eir Soccer / Global Goals World Cup – Play for Change initiative, Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor, Director of External Relations at the UN High Commission for Refugees, and Myrian Baverel, Olympic Taekwondo medallist and Chair of the World Taekwondo Federation Committee.

The football coaches of Inter Campus, a social programme led by Inter Milan Football Club, will also be on hand to lead some 50 young students from the Geneva area in a warm-up session promoting gender equality.

In the evening, celebrations will continue in downtown Geneva. At 6:30 p.m. the Jet d’eau will be lit up in turquoise, the colour of the International Gender Champions, and from 6 p.m. onwards the public is invited at the Brasserie des Halles de l’Île for another edition of Mix & Mash, an after-work mingling event between internationals and locals. Exhibition stands will showcase what International Geneva does for women in the changing world of work, this year’s theme for International Women’s Day.

The full programme of activities is available on the UNOG website: www.unog.ch

Journalists are welcome to attend the round-table discussion and other public events in the evening. For interviews with high-level speakers, journalists can contact the sports federations directly to make arrangements or Lily Esposito at 022 917 5984 (lesposito@unog.ch).

For use of the information media; not an official record