“The programme gives girls skills and tools that will be useful not only to implement their project in their community but also for the rest of their life.”
International School Sport Federation
Three questions for Laurence Fischer, French Ambassador of Sport, Karate World Champion and She Runs Ambassador
1. How do you perceive and analyse gender inequality in society, and above all, in sport? (in your personal life, sport career and professional life)
As an elite athlete, I enjoyed a rather privileged position. Although there were some differences between male and female technical criteria (e.g. weight categories, duration of fights or arbitration) or media coverage, practice conditions and inclusion were excellent on the national team. My concrete understanding of gender inequality came later, and above all abroad, far away from my comfort zone. With Sport Without Borders – now Play International –, I had the opportunity to train the first female karate national team of Afghanistan in a post-Taliban context (2005). For these girls, sport practice was a means of accessing freedom, an act of resistance – including vis à vis their own family – as well as the pride of representing their country. They were eager to learn, and I hope I gave them as much as they gave to me. They proved that everything was possible, and that sport could be an unbelievable tool for emancipation. I admired their courage and dignity. They helped me understand how free I was to practice my sport.
2. How has sport helped you change things/become a leader/make great things?
Sport conveys universal values and allows for the development of skills beyond sport that remain be useful for your entire life. Through sport, one learns effort, excellence and strength. I am used to thinking that when you practice karate, you don’t fight against opponents, but with partners, because alone you are nothing, and you need others in order to accomplish your own goals.
I am the Founder of Fight for Dignity, a non-profit organisation that supports abused women in their process of restoring self-confidence and emancipation through sports, e.g. karate or football, after traumatic events. With Congolese gynaecologist, women’s rights activist, and co-Nobel Prize Laureate, Dr Denis Mukwege, we launched a sport programme within Dorcas House. As one of the institutions of the Panzi Foundation, Dorcas House is a transit and empowerment centre for women which offers its services to women and girls referred by the Survivors of Sexual Violence Project. Back in Paris, with Fight for Dignity, I have replicated this programme on resilience and reconnection with traumatised bodies at the Maison des Femmes in St Denis (near Paris). Through sport practice, we see immediate and concrete results in terms of education, physical and mental health and social inclusion.
My personal commitments and professional choices led me to become French Ambassador of Sport – a function that I am very honoured to fulfil – and I am happy to contribute my own expertise and skills in the field of Sport and Development. Given the potentialities of sport, it is our job to make its practice accessible to the largest majority of people, including vulnerable people. I am convinced that it is all about meeting, sharing and conveying the message further.
3. What kind of message would you like to deliver to all these young girls, whether physically active or not?
At the She Runs event, I met girls who were very convinced about the power of sport, who were very mature and aware that they could change the world. I was surprised to see how much they were involved in the implementation of their project within their own community, beyond the domain of sport and the event itself. They are real catalysts for change, and sport offers them opportunities to improve their skills. We have a duty to support the youth and to encourage them to voice their concerns. There is still a lot to do in terms of gender equality, but there are also real changes going on. International and national federations, as well as the IOC and many other organisations are working on changing views on female sport. As a practitioner of a “male” sport, I know how important it is to raise girls’ awareness of their ability to participate in any sport. Equality is about complementarity, understanding of others, and mutual respect. And sport is an amazing tool for fighting all kinds of discrimination.
2020 Smart Cities & Sport Publication