Opening ceremony, Finlandia Hall, 12 June 2014, 2 pm.
Address by Mrs Pia Viitanen, Minister of Housing and Culture
President Halonen, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Finland is honoured to host this conference here in the capital region and I am so glad to be able to welcome you here today.
Finland highlights the role of gender equality in sport as a fundamental value along with the core elements of quality, ethics, integrity and sustainability.
Men and women boys and girls have differing and sometimes conflicting interests. But above all we have to consider what is just and fair. These are the reasons why it is so important nowadays to promote gender equality in sport.
Gender equality should be the baseline throughout sports culture from the grassroots level to professional competition and from training to decision-making and leadership. Everyone should be entitled to participate in sport just the way they are irrespective of gender, age, sexual orientation, mobility or any other aspect of their individuality. This allows not only sportsmen and women but also the whole sports community to attain their goals and reap the benefits of their efforts and dedication.
In Finland the status of women and girls in sports culture has developed in a positive direction during the last decades. However, while men and women now engage in similar levels of physical activity and women generally have a higher level of education women are still in the minority as sports managers and decision makers.
What’s more among the young the level of physical activity in girls is lower than for boys in all age groups and this is also true for the levels of participation in organized sport. Additionally, the majority of coaches, educators and referees are men. I think most of us struggle with this problem.
In our country the means of promoting equality in sports have included a range of programs and projects mentoring and networking seminars and training courses as well as knowledge creation. Alongside these targeted measures gender mainstreaming has been adopted to ensure that the gender perspective is observed in all areas of activity and decision-making.
With positive attitudes targeted actions and political will we can make changes nationally and internationally.
At the European level Finland welcomes the latest efforts made by both the Council of Europe and the European Union for gender equality in sport. We wish for strong commitment and concrete actions by all stakeholders to those aims.
I am sure we all agree that a lot more work is needed. Creating a level playing field requires team play and calls for determination. For the future it is crucial that gender equality policies be included in sports organizations’ action plans and procedures. Gender equality work must be well-planned and coordinated and receive appropriate resources. By the same token it is fundamental to educate sports people at all levels and positions and also develop and exchange best practices and share experiences. The aim being, to promote gender-equality work in the wider arena of the field of sport.
Ladies and gentlemen, the International Working Group on Women and Sport does invaluable work in promoting gender equality. The Finnish Government champions this work and will promote the legacy of this Conference in the future.
I wish to extend my sincere thanks to the International Working Group on Women and Sport for organising this conference.
With these words, I warmly welcome you to the sixth IWG World Conference.