Upcoming event in Montenegro: ” Football Unites Workshop on Gender Equality and Intercultural Dialogue in the Balkans”

In 2010, my plan was to integrate sport, women and environment into integral project for NOC of Montenegro. Part of this project was to assess the current status of girls and women’s sport participation in Montenegro, at all institutional levels. The research identifies who plays sport in Montenegro, and the factors (family, education, economic, gender stereotypes, and so on) that contribute to, or that limit girls and women’s participation in sport.

The benefits of women’s participation for sport and society

In addition to benefits for women and girls themselves, women’s increased involvement can promote positive development in sport by providing alternative norms, values, attitudes, knowledge, capabilities and experiences. The contributions of women, particularly in leadership positions, can bring diversity and alternative approaches and expand the talent base in areas such as management, coaching and sport journalism. In particular, women in sport leadership can shape attitudes towards women’s capabilities as leaders and decision-makers, especially in traditional male domains. Women’s involvement in sport can make a significant contribution to public life and community development. Sport provides women and girls with an alternative avenue for participation in the social and cultural life of their communities and promotes enjoyment of freedom of expression, interpersonal networks, new opportunities and increased self-esteem. It also expands opportunities for education and for the development of a range of essential life skills, including communication, leadership, teamwork and negotiation. Inactive adults can rapidly improve their health and well-being by becoming moderately active on a regular basis.

Research in Montenegro (authors: Cheryl Cooky, Ph.D., Carole Oglesby, Ph.D., Don Sabo, Ph.D., and Marj Snyder, Ph.D., and Marko Begovic) showed that regarding sport professions women are underrepresented. Women hold only 8.8% of coaching positions, 12.3% of regional managerial positions, and 5.9% of national managerial positions. Only 25% of medical staff and 13.3% of national-level referees are women. Researchers identified the top sports in Montenegro (football, volleyball, basketball, water polo, handball, track and field, and judo). Focus groups were conducted with female athletes and female and male professionals in women’s sport. The greatest gender imbalance is in football and basketball, where approximately 13% of athletes and professionals in each sport are female. The greatest gender parity is in handball and volleyball, where the percentages of female athletes and professionals in each sport are approximately 45% and 51%, respectively. The highest percentages of female athletes are in the sports of handball (58.1%) and volleyball (64.9%).

The benefits for women and girls of physical activity and sport

Participation in sport and physical activity can prevent a myriad of no communicable diseases. For girls, it can have a positive impact on childhood health, as well as reduce the risk of chronic diseases in later life. For older women, it can contribute to the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, which account for one third of deaths among women around the world and half of all deaths among women over 50 in developing countries.Physical activity also helps to reduce the effects of osteoporosis, which women have a higher risk of developing than men. Participation in physical activity aids in the prevention and/or treatment of other chronic and degenerative diseases associated with aging, such as type-2 diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, osteoporosis and cardiovascular abnormalities. It also helps in the management of weight and contributes to the formation and maintenance of healthy bones, muscles and joints. Apart from enhancing health, wellness and quality of life, participation in physical activity and sport develops skills such as teamwork, goal-setting, the pursuit of excellence in performance and other achievement-oriented behaviors that women and girls with disabilities may not be exposed to in other contexts. Participation in sport and physical activity can also facilitate good mental health for women of all ages, including the management of mental disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. It can promote psychological well-being through building self-esteem, confidence and social integration, as well as help reduce stress, anxiety, loneliness and depression. This is particularly important as rates of depression among women are almost double those of men in both developed and developing countries.  In addition to improvements in health, women and girls stand to gain specific social benefits from participation in sport and physical activity.

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Thanks to the Council of Europe (EPAS), BAAP, FARE and FSCG, next week we are going to have Football Unites Workshop on Gender Equality and Intercultural Dialogue in the Balkans. I am invited to present study results and to take part in the panel discussion during one day event. Never happened anything similar in Montenegro before, which raise an interesting question:

“Whether the time had come for Sports Movement in Montenegro and Balkan region to take gender equality more seriously when it comes to the strategic development of certain sports?”

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