University of Hertfordshire a lead partner in the UK’s successful bid to host the International Working Group on Women and Sport

21 July 2021

The UK has been announced as the next host secretariat for the International Working Group (IWG) on Women and Sport. Following a competitive bidding process, in which the University of Hertfordshire was one of the lead partners, the UK will take over from current hosts New Zealand for the period of 2022 – 2026. It will include the staging of the 9th IWG World Conference on Women and Sport 2026.

The IWG work throughout the year highlights important issues facing women and girls in sport and physical activity. It supports development, encourages inclusivity and shares knowledge across its global network to empower women and girls to take part in activity.

It partners with world agencies, including UN Women, UNESCO and WHO, to drive awareness and support positive change. Every four years it stages the world’s largest conference dedicated to gender equity in sport and physical activity, attracting 1,500+ global experts to discuss strategy.

The first ever international conference on women and sport was organised by the British Sports Council and was hosted in Brighton in 1994. The conference brought together policy and decision makers specifically to accelerate the redress of the imbalances women faced in their involvement in sport, in the UK and internationally.

Professor Elizabeth Pike, Head of Sport, Health and Exercise at the University of Hertfordshire, said: “We are delighted that the International Working Group on Women and Sport will return to the UK, nearly three decades after the first world conference in Brighton. Women and girls’ participation in sport and physical activity has been significantly affected by the global pandemic, and there is much to be done to harness the power of sport as a driver for gender equality.

“As a lead partner in the UK’s bid to host the IWG, the University of Hertfordshire will support the systemic change that is required to create a world where women and girls play a full and equitable part at all levels, particularly at this pivotal time, building on the institution’s long-standing commitment to gender equality in sport.”

Annamarie Phelps CBE OLY, Chair of the UK Bid, said: “We are thrilled to have been given the honour of taking on the role of host secretariat for this prestigious group and will endeavour to build on the wonderful legacy already created by those nations who have held this position before, including our predecessors in New Zealand.

“Central to the UK’s bid was the pledge to ‘share’ and to learn from others through sharing. During our time as host secretariat, we will be inclusive of all cultures and identities; commit to mutual learning; and operate as global citizens with a collective responsibility to progress sport for women and girls in a way that is sustainable for the sport system and future generations.

“We look forward to welcoming the world and pushing forward conversations which challenge the status quo, re-evaluate and reinvent how sport works, and harness the power of sport as a driver for social change and social equity.”

The bid was co-ordinated by the Sport and Recreation Alliance and received the support of over 100 organisations in the physical activity sector including Sport England, sportscotland and Sport Wales.

Lisa Wainwright MBE, CEO of the Alliance, said: “The benefits of hosting the IWG will be profound. For the UK to become a true thought-leader in community sport, physical activity and volunteering, it needs to identify innovation, projects and best practice that are working and having real impact, whether in the UK or across the globe.

“In this role we will be able to proactively reach out to different parts of the world to identify and learn from what other nations are doing to support women and girls through community sport and recreation. The opportunity for the UK to serve as secretariat to the IWG will prove a major opportunity to be global leaders.

“I would like to place on record my sincere thanks to all of the stakeholders, ambassadors and partners who enabled us to submit a world-class bid, and we look forward to working with you all as we bring the IWG back to the UK in 2022 through to 2026.”


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