Hello <<First Name>>,

The year 2020 is slowly starting to wrap up – what a whirlwind it has been! As the month of November is coming to an end, we are approaching November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Therefore, we would like to dedicate this newsletter to violence against women and girls and encourage you to address this topic locally however you can, too. Gender-based violence, especially intimate partner violence and sexual violence, is a major public health problem and furthermore a human rights violation.

Why even address such a topic in a non-contact sport, you might ask?

One of the many benefits of table tennis is indeed that it is a non-contact sport, making it attractive to many who dislike physical contact or, for example, young girls whose parents disapprove of a contact sport. What if we told you that there are many forms of harassment and abuse that do not even require physical contact?
A study from 2012 collecting data across Europe has shown that up to 73% of athletes have experienced sexual harassment and up to 22% have experienced sexual abuse. Unfortunately, no sport or level of athleticism is immune to sexual harassment or abuse cases. They can manifest themselves in many ways; they can be of verbal, non-verbal or physical nature. Some of the forms of violence, harassment and abuse common in the field of sports include:
  • physical harm: can be with contact (e.g., beating), without contact (e.g., denying access to water or physical punishment) or excessive training (can lead to exhaustion and burnout)
  • emotional abuse (threats, critique, humiliation, bullying)
  • sexual harassment (appraising looks, sexist jokes, invasion of personal space)
  • sexual abuse (forced physical and sexual contact)
  • organised abuse (group rejection, “welcome dares”, bullying)
The results of these violation of women’s and girl’s rights range from immediate to long-term mental, physical and sexual consequences, including death. Their general well-being is negatively affected, and such incidents can prevent women and girls from fully participating in society.

Sports – A safe environment?

The social, emotional and physical interaction in sports and recreational activities are vital for the development of social cohesion – this does not only refer to children and adolescents but also holds true for athletes of all ages. One of the great things about sports, in general, is that it offers a non-formal education possibility, and it creates unique bonds. As a result, those involved can develop close personal relationship and trust. This emotional and often physical proximity is crucial when training professionally for success, yet it means an increased state of vulnerability for sexual and gender-based harassment and abuse.
It does not always necessarily have to be a violation of the trust between athletes and trainers though, however, this power dynamic and the focus on the athlete’s body and physical performance can enhance such tendencies. But it can also manifest itself among peer athletes, and of course outside – in fact, one out of three women has experienced some form of violence in her lifetime. As long as girls and women fear for their safety, they cannot realise their full potential. The elimination of gender-based violence – everywhere – is fundamental to safeguard their dignity and rights. With this edition for the World Table Tennis Day (WTTD), we do not only want to raise awareness but prove that we can make social changes through table tennis, too.

Breaking the silence: Funke Oshonaike

Hearing people openly talk about their experiences and telling their stories can be empowering and can encourage those in similar situations to speak up and seek help while also raise awareness and make people more alert.
When Nigerian table tennis star Funke Oshonaike spoke out about her experience, sharing her story with the world inspired many other young women and set an example. Oshonaike also continues to point out gender inequality, and she encourages people everywhere to chase their dreams. Her next goal: become part of the International Table Tennis Federation’s ‘seven club‘. In table tennis, so far only men have managed to play in seven Olympic Games. Funke Oshonaike strives to be the first woman to achieve that.
Sport is a platform for change, it is a powerful cultural influencer. The individuals within sport – meaning coaches, athletes and teams – are offered the incredible social power to shift broader cultural norms. Sport organisations, clubs, associations, and individuals can become role models for champion and bystander behaviour. By establishing standards and practices that do not tolerate and condone all forms of violence while also demonstrating healthy lifestyles, respect and fairness, table tennis would influence the broader community to uphold these same standards and ideals. Such leadership in the table tennis community would contribute to a society free of inequality and violence.

What can you do?

  • Having an open and on-going conversation: Addressing this topic is the baseline to tackle it.
  • Offering trust and guaranteeing a safe space: Together with a zero-tolerance policy, that would be one step closer to creating a safe and comfortable environment for all participants.
  • Following guidelines and setting up policies: The ITTF has developed a Child Safeguard Policy that seeks to protect athletes who are still minors from sexual harassment and abuse. You can also read more about how to set up policies about sexual harassment in sports here.
However, abuse and harassment can take place outside training sessions and away from the table. If you suspect something going on, turn to guidelines to identify the steps and forms of gender-based violence or sexual harassment. Check on your teammates, make sure everyone is okay. Analyse the situation and start by addressing the topic openly.
Feeling inspired yet? Do you want to make a change? Use the upcoming WTTD 2021 to raise awareness of the issues of gender equality, female empower and the elimination of gender-based violence! We would like to help you with some additional support. Scale up your WTTD event by becoming one of our selected 100 Promoters! You can fill out the application here or download the application form and send it to us at We look forward to hearing what your ideas and plans are for the WTTD 2021 and the theme of FEMpowerment!
Keep staying positive and testing negative!
The team of the World Table Tennis Day wishes you a happy organising. Please feel free to contact us in case of questions, comments or remarks. We will be happy to read you:
Copyright © 2020 ITTF Foundation, All rights reserved.

Richard-Wagner-Str. 10 - 04109 Leipzig - Germany

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