Gymnastics South Africa takes a stand for safe sport environment

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05 August 2020. In recent months concerns have been expressed globally regarding a culture and practice in the sport of gymnastics that has allowed children and young people to be subjected to different forms of abuse.

In order to address any such concerns in gymnastics in South Africa, the South African Gymnastics Federation (SAGF) has appointed the Safe Sport Commission, an independent commission to listen to former and current gymnasts’ concerns and to make recommendations to the federation.

“The Safe Sport Commission will work alongside our existing Safeguarding programme which we’ve implemented in 2019,” says Donny Jurgens, Acting President of the SAGF. “With our Safeguarding programme we set clear rules and procedures to safeguard children and vulnerable adults against physical, sexual and mental abuse in gymnastics. The programme also allows for the training of Safeguarding officers, but more importantly, it gives current gymnasts the opportunity to report incidents of abuse and receive assistance where needed.”

This commission is separate from the existing Safeguarding programme. Its aim is to listen and understand concerns by past and current gymnasts and to make recommendations to the federation on changes in practice and culture required to ensure that children and young people can take part in sport safely without fear of any form of harassment or abuse.

The Safe Sport Commission’s terms of reference is in the process of being finalised in the coming weeks, and these details will be released together with how to engage with the commission. Participation will be voluntary, and confidentiality and anonymity will be fully respected.

“It’s an appropriate time for us to review our policies regarding the culture and conduct of everyone involved in gymnastics in South Africa,” adds Jurgens. “We need to have important conversations regarding the safeguarding of our children and vulnerable adults. We believe that this commission will assist us in making even more positive changes in our coaching and cultural practices in a sport riddled with challenges. Just as we South Africans need to address the challenges in Transformation and Development by learning from our past, so too do we need talk about Safe Sport.”

The SAGF is proud to be amongst the forerunners in sport in South Africa in dealing with Safeguarding in Sport.

“We were amongst the first federations to adopt a Safeguarding Policy,” adds Jurgens. “We have not established training for coaches and volunteers, but also Safeguarding Officers training at club, district and provincial level. Facilitators have been trained and some training courses were conducted face-to-face before lockdown. Due to Covid-19, we are about to launch our Safeguarding training online and extend this programme to members of any other sport.”

SAGF has an established reporting system, in accordance to its Safeguarding policy, which allows any member to report to the National Safeguarding Officer, either byemailing a report to safeguarding@sagf.co.za or sending an anonymous report via The Guardian Reporting App and reporting to SAGF National. Every report is assessed in accordance with the Safeguarding policy and is handed over to an independent Safeguarding Case Management Group who decide how each individual report is handled. At all times confidentiality and anonymity is respected.

For more on SAGF’s Safeguarding programme, go to: www.sagf.co.za.