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Gender Equality

Sport is a powerful tool to promote inclusion and diversity in society and this includes gender equality.

The important contribution of sport to peace and development has long been recognised by the United Nations, and further emphasised in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) established in 2015. SDG 5 is about gender equality, stating that the objective is to “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”.

University sport, by its very nature, plays a key role as a building block, or foundation, for the development of future communities and societies. It is with this sense of immense responsibility that FISU takes concrete steps towards ensuring gender equality at its sports and education events, as well as in its governance.

Gender Equality at FISU Events

Over the past decades, FISU has led the way in this direction, with pathbreaking adaptations to its sports events. Women’s ski jumping, for example, was included as an Olympic discipline for the first time at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, but FISU had already included it in its sports programme at the 2005 Winter Universiade in Innsbruck, Austria.

Today, there are mixed team disciplines at various FISU events, including those in archery, sailing, triathlon and ski jumping, among many others. 

Rapid strides have also been made with regards to the number of female competitors at FISU’s flagship sports event – the World University Games – over the last 20 years.

In 1999, at the Summer Universiade held in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, there were 2,635 male athletes as compared to 1,441 female competitors.

By the time the Napoli 2019 Summer Universiade came around, the number was nearly equal, with 3,100 men and 2,793 women – 52% and 48% respectively. This is a result of a concerted effort and implementation of FISU’s longterm strategies, in which gender equality is among the top priorities. 

Gender Equality in FISU Governance 

The first woman to be a part of the FISU Executive Committee was Mrs. Jian Zang from the Federation of University Sports China (FUSC), who held the position of Assessor from 1983-1991 and was named an Honorary Member thereafter.

Following in her footsteps was Mrs Yvonne Bovanga Akpa from Côte d’Ivoire, who was the FISU Executive Committee Assessor from 1995-1999. 

In 2007, FISU established the Women’s Committee, then led by Dr. Verena Burk, who is today FISU Senior Executive Committee Member. In 2011, this Women’s Committee gave way to the Gender Equality Committee, tasked with the strategic objective of integrating gender equality and balanced representation into all FISU activities and the global University Sport Movement.

In 2019, Penninah Aligawesa Kabenge from Uganda was elected as FISU’s first female Vice-President. Kabenge had earlier been part of the FISU Gender Equality Committee. 

There are now 7 women in the new FISU Executive Committee recently elected at the 38th General Assembly held in Geneva.

Within FISU’s governance structure, the FISU Committees strive towards a 50-50 balance between men and women in their composition. This change was introduced as part of an attempt to significantly increase the number of women on FISU Committees and work towards the general objective of achieving gender equality in sport governance.

Gender Equality Roundtables 

Taking this initiative further, FISU and the FISU GEC organise a Gender Equality Roundtable at every edition of the FISU World University Games since Shenzhen 2011. These roundtables are organised at both, summer and winter editions, to engage members and promote discussion about gender equality in sport. 

International experts, senior members from the University Sports Movement and student-athletes are invited to take part in these discussions. Topics at previous editions of the roundtables have included ‘Gender Equality in University & Olympic Sports’, ’10 Years of Gender Equality in FISU – The Way Forward’, ‘Gender Equality & the Role of NUSFs and CUSFs’, among others. 

Additionally, FISU works hard to ensure that gender equality is considered throughout the event organisation of the FISU World Conferences and the FISU World Forum, including a gender balance in the selection of speakers and topics.

FISU Gender Equality Award

Established in 2009, the FISU Gender Equality Award was created to raise awareness and acknowledge existing projects in the University Sport Movement, designed to achieve gender equality in sport.

Awarded biannually, the Awards aim to promote the advancement of gender equality in sport and recognise outstanding efforts and achievements to increase the participation of women, but also non-binary and transgender individuals, in sports at all levels, both on and off the field of play.

Following six successful editions of the Gender Equality Award, the FISU Gender Equality Committee (GEC) proposed in 2020 to expand the awards, to not only recognise Higher Education Institutions/Universities, National University Sports Federations (NUSF) and Continental Associations (CUSF) who have developed outstanding projects designed to advance and achieve Gender Equality in sport, but to also recognise individuals in the university sports movement, who have made significant efforts to advance and achieve gender equality in University Sports in their country, continent or internationally.

The newly named FISU Gender Equality Awards therefore now consist of two awards:

  • FISU Gender Equality Project Award
  • FISU Gender Equality Champion Award
Samar Judah Mousa, winner of the FISU Gender Equality Champion Award in 2023

Previous Award Winners

EditionProject & WinnerImplementing organisation
2023Champion: Samar Judah MousaPalestinian University Sports
2023Project: Challenge the NumbersPortuguese Academic Federation of University Sport (FADU)
2021Champion: Lakshika MadhushaniSabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka
2021Project: The FA University Women’s Leadership ProgrammeBritish Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS)
2019Participation of Women at the National University Sports FestivalUniversities Sport Association of Ethiopia (USAE)
2017Equality promotion plan between women and men in university sportsUniversity Sports Federation of Costa Rica (FEDEU)
2015Gender Equality in University SportNational University Sport Federation of Spain (CEDU)
2013Mentoring Program for Female Leaders in Norwegian University SportsNational University Sport Federation of Norway (NSI)
2011The Women’s Sports DayNational University Sport Federation of Kenya (KUSA) in conjunction with Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and technology (JKUAT)
2009Tandem: Mentoring for Young Women in University SportsNational University Sport Federation of Germany (ADH)