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Spotlight on women and girls at latest NI Sport and Human Rights Forum

20 Sept 2022

Sport has the power to drive change, tackle violence against women and girls, and address issues such as social exclusion and poor mental health, the NI Sport and Human Rights Forum has heard.

Women and girls in sport was the focus of the latest meeting of the Forum, with attendees hearing from Sonya Mc Mullan, Regional Services Manager at Women's Aid Federation NI and Lisa Rickett, Head of Development at Netball NI.

Sonya focused on how sport can make a significant impact and make change in combatting violence against women and girls. She underlined how sport can be a platform to drive social change, increase gender equality, and raise awareness and solutions to gender violence. Sonya highlighted some of the campaigns and safeguarding training that Women’s Aid have done with sports to help discuss and address issues of gender-based violence.

Lisa spoke about how Netball NI has grown the participation and inclusion of women and girls in the sport over the last number of years. This includes tackling barriers to access such as facilities and geography; using the sport as a means to address social exclusion; and encouraging exercise and good mental health and well-being through walking netball.

NI Human Rights Chief Commissioner, Alyson Kilpatrick said:

“We are delighted that Women’s Aid Federation NI and Netball NI were able to present to the NI Sport and Human Rights Forum on such an important topic. It is heartening to see the work being done to address some of the obstacles that prevent women and girls from realising their rights but appreciate there is more work to be done. Sport has the power to affect change in our society for the better, and I know the practice and experience that has been shared by our speakers today will be useful for members in their own sports. I thank our speakers for taking the time to address the Forum, and wish them well with the ongoing work of their respective organisations.”



  • The Northern Ireland Sport & Human Rights Forum was established in May 2019. The Forum has been established as a multi-stakeholder platform to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and good practice on sport and human rights issues.
  • The Chair of the NI Sport and Human Rights Forum is Conal Heatley, Business and Operations Manager at Commonwealth Games Northern Ireland.
  • The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is an independent statutory body first proposed in the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement (1998) and established in 1999 by the Northern Ireland Act (1998). It is answerable to Parliament at Westminster.
  • Women’s Aid Federation NI are a charity organisation addressing domestic and sexual violence and providing services for women and children in Northern Ireland.
  • Netball NI is the Governing Body for Netball in Northern Ireland.
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