Laureus World Sports Academy Member Nawal El Moutawakel was the first Moroccan, African and Muslim woman to win an Olympic gold medal, in the 400 metres hurdles in Los Angeles in 1984. She is a Vice-President of the International Olympic Committee and is Chairman of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games Co-ordination Committee. She is a passionate campaigner for women’s rights.
"Women have participated in the Olympic Games since 1900, often in defiance of gender norms. All of them became powerful role models for the next generation. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is committed to gender equality and encourages the promotion of women in sport at all levels and in all structures. Today, women account for more than 40% of Games participants, and the IOC is committed to achieving parity.With the addition of women’s boxing to the Olympic Programme at the 2012 London Games, women now compete in every sport at the Summer Games. The London Games also saw the first participation by women from Saudi Arabia, Brunei and Qatar, ensuring that all 204 National Olympic Committees have included women in their delegations. Olympic Agenda 2020 includes a commitment by the IOC to work with International Sports Federations to achieve 50% female participation in the Olympic Games.This is why with all the organisations I work with including Laureus, I try my best with my fellow female Academy Members – Nadia Comaneci, Katarina Witt, Martina Navratilova and Tanni Grey-Thompson – to show that sport is a human right. We feel there are still far too many women in this world who are denied access to sport. Through community-based programmes, we try to empower women and girls by practising sport at the grassroots level. In my case, I launched a few years ago “Courir pour la Vie - the Casablanca Women’s Race”, supported by Laureus. This project was a way for women in Morocco to express themselves by taking part in a mass 10km event of 30,000 participants.It was my dream and it’s great today to see that in every small remote town and city in Morocco and elsewhere, girls and women are enjoying full participation in physical activities and sport. This is fantastic and a growing sign of the positive change of gender empowerment in society today."