“We are carrying the torch for women and girls all over the world” – Executive Director

Remarks by UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at One Win Leads to Another event at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro


[As delivered]

Athletes and winners, past, present and future,
Ladies and gentlemen,
My colleagues from the UN system,

It is such a pleasure to be here today. A special thanks to our co-hosts, the International Olympic Committee and Always, for helping to make this event a reality. I also want to thank the Swedish Postcode Lottery Sports Foundation and Women Win, as well as our partners in Brazil, the National Olympic Committee, Bola pra Frente, Instituto Agenda and the Rio de Janeiro Municipality for their vital support. And of course the girls, and the parents and the teachers.

At UN Women, we are carrying the torch for women and girls all over the world. But I have to say it was nice to carry the real torch yesterday and feel it in my hand. I will carry it in my heart everywhere I go, for every woman and for every girl.

We work to end discrimination against women and girls and empower them to live full and productive lives – so that their own light burns brightly. Sports can truly help girls shine. They already shine, but sports takes it to an even higher place. Our goals could not be more relevant than right now, because together with the 2016 Olympic Games we are able to fuse these ambitions that we share.

The Olympics give us a frame through which to examine our values of equality and fairness – both in the realm of sport and in broader social and political arenas. But also in everyday life, when girl meets boy, girl must have an attitude that ‘I am equal’ and that ‘I don’t take nonsense’. Right, girls?

We see how training and hard work builds on natural skill and extraordinary determination. It is not good for nations that so many girls drop out of sports at puberty. We are losing too many champions, and this programme is about retaining the champions so that they can be the champions that they are meant to be.

These are assets that we want to see reproduced and multiplied in the world outside these Olympic arenas, in their personal lives, in their professional lives, and of course they must also become winners in sports.

UN Women and the IOC’s legacy programme, “One Win Leads to Another” is about making sure that when we leave Rio we will be able to kickstart a legacy that we leave forever; not only in Rio but in all of Brazil; not just in Brazil, but across the whole world. What we learn from you girls, we will take with us to other parts of the world.

The project uses sport to build adolescent girls’ leadership skills, and create safe spaces for girls to break social barriers. It equips them with basic economic skills, increased knowledge of their bodies and the confidence to access services in the event of violence. But more importantly, to prevent violence from happening in the first place.

I am very happy that today we will have a chance to meet some of the inspiring girls who have been participating in the project and hear about their experiences, their athleticism, strength and accomplishments, all of which are just a portion of the inspiration and of the burning light that is within them.

Yesterday, I was honoured to carry the Olympic Torch, along with one of our girls, Thaiza Vitoria, and to be part of the Opening Ceremony. What a night! It was a powerful reminder of what diversity is about and the importance of celebrating it and nurturing it. And what a highlight to see Team Refugees; that again was another celebration.

So thank you to all of you for being here.

Uma Vitória Leva a Outra!

Thank you.