The launch of the 20×20 campaign, an initiative that aims to increase participation in women’s sport by 20% in the year 2020 has created much debate across various social media platforms and in the media itself.
The campaign, championed by Ireland’s National Governing Bodies and Local Sports Partnerships, is calling on the people of Ireland and all those involved in Irish sport and physical activity to get behind female sport.
Is this campaign necessary? Do we really need another push in women’s sport?
This year has been a remarkably successfully for women’s sport. The Irish hockey team created history when they won silver in the World Cup. Sunita Puspure demolished the field when she won a gold medal in the Rowing World Championships while the ladies football final saw a record attendance of 50,141 people.
Based on the launch for the 20×20 event, there is a dire need to discuss equality in sport and perceptions of female athletes.
Last year, Rena Buckley, an 18-time All-Ireland winner, was invited to present medals to an U12 boys’ team and an U14 girls’ team by a club in her county of Cork.
When she arrived at the GAA club, she was told that they did not want her to hand out the medals to the boy’s team, just to the girls. They found a local male GAA player to present the medals to the boys. As Buckley said herself, this was in 2017 and not in 1986.
There has been massive stride made in women’s sport but this a firm reminder that there are still hurdles to overcome for total equality.
Former Chelsea, Arsenal and England soccer player Casey Stoney described her own experiences with sexism. She mentioned one Twitter troll who told her to put a plate she received after winning a special achievement award “in the kitchen where she belongs.”
These stories are disappointing to hear in this day and age but unfortunately not entirely unexpected. One of the central aims for the 20×20 project is to encourage people to attend women’s sporting events and allow them to make their own minds up.
If this initiative is to be successful then it needs to be targeted at not just young girls but towards fathers, brothers and male friends who are often a huge influence on the lives of these girls.
Too often in the past, these projects are too narrow in focus and do not help examine the big issues such as the influence of others on whether a child continues in sport or not.
If this initiative can alter the attitudes of people within different categories within society then improvements will be made in women’s sport. Undoubtedly enormous strides have been made in recent times, but this movement has the potential to do great things for women’s sport in Ireland.
A change is on its way.
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