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The 2010 Gender Institute selected the theme of Gender and Sports in Africa’s Development: Towards Gender Equality in Sports in Africa. This builds on the debates on the same theme held during the 2009 edition of the Annual Gender Symposium held in Cairo in November 2009. The papers presented at this symposium revealed a marked gender disparity within the African sports space. To this end, the 2010 Gender Institute seeks to encourage researchers to explain and comprehend the recognized causes of this disparity and to urge them to take a critical look at sports, particularly from a gender perspective.
Sports is a set of practices which are grouped in three different categories: educational sports, which includes physical education in schools; leisure sports comprehended as a physical activity for relaxation and leisure time occupation; finally, competitive sports managed by national and international sports federations. It is now accepted that sports, in its different methods of exercise, is a universe that reproduces the dominant social values and reflects trends in the overall society (Pocciello, 1997). Indeed, the sports space cannot be detached from the overall social situation nor can it be regarded as a neutral and closed space. Furthermore, the field of sports is dynamic and therefore responsive to time and social changes. As such, it constitutes a space for building socio-cultural elements that promote the expression of stereotypes linked with gender differences and provides information on gender relations (Laberge, 2004). In this perspective, the gender approach is part of a development logic that admits the effectiveness of both sexes for the accomplishment of societal progress.
Like in all social practices, gender differences and inequalities in the field of sports are shaped and revealed both in the form of physical practices and in related institutional structures. Thus, considering gender in sports unavoidably leads to questions about gender parity and obstacles that impede its fulfilment. The Institute will try to highlight gender specificities of sports, which includes questions such as: How does the influence of gender proceed, according to spaces, times, practices, bodies, or institutions? Furthermore, to account for connections between local and global levels, is it possible to identify some peculiarity in modes of gender expression in sports in Africa? Finally, in what ways does sport contribute to development in Africa?
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