International Women’s Day - Women in international high-level sport, a source of inspiration

Today is the International Women’s Day. Despite improvements in many countries, there is still a long way to go in the defence of women’s rights. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders invited today a group of women professional athletes to take part in an event at the Egmont Palace in Brussels. Ingrid Berghmans, Kimberley Buys, Vanina Ickx, Aurélie Romanini, Sandrine Tas, Gella Vandecaveye and the Red Panthers - the female national hockey team - were among those able to join the event.

Sport has the undeniable power to bring people together. It creates hope and can change lives. Through their performance, professional athletes inspire girls and women around the world. “Seeing is one step closer to being” as UN Women, the United Nations organization for women, puts it.

Minister Reynders engaged in a debate with these athletes, joined by Jean-Michel Saive, on how sport can be a lever for women’s emancipation. How can sport help women become more confident in themselves and gain more recognition in society where this is not yet the case? Through this recognition, violence against women and girls can also diminish. Huge steps must still be taken to improve the status of women around the world.

Belgium continues to defend women’s rights at all levels. Our country fully supports the new “Spotlight Initiative” of the European Union and United Nations to end violence against women and girls. The Minister continues to actively support the #heforshe campaign against sexual harassment. Belgium is also one of the pioneers of the #SheDecides campaign which defends the right to a safe family planning. Belgium gives already the example in many areas. The “gender pay gap” for professional women athletes is at the moment the topic of an interesting public debate in our country. Among the members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Belgium scores third when it comes to the gender pay gap between men and women.

The event was attended by members of the Belgian and foreign diplomatic corps in Brussels, representatives of the recently established Women Ambassadors Network in Belgium as well as representatives of UN agencies in Brussels.

Red Panthers
Minister Reynders with the Red Panthers, the female national hockey team of Belgium

Minister Reynders met de panelleden
Minister Reynders with the members of the panel

Women Ambassadors Network
Minister Reynders with members of the Women Ambassadors Network