The International Olympic Committee (IOC) celebrated this evening six role models and change-makers in advancing women and girls in and through sport. In partnership with UN Women, a dedicated awards ceremony was held on the sidelines of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations headquarters in New York, USA.
Six trophies. One goal.
International baseball umpire from Chinese Taipei Ms Po Chun Liu was awarded the World Trophy for her staunch advocacy for female empowerment through sport.
Throughout her sporting journey, she has refused to let gender discrimination stand in the way. It has not been an easy road. But her determination saw her go from being a volunteer in Little League to becoming the first female baseball umpire in her native Chinese Taipei. With a boost from the New York Yankees, the figure known as “the Mother of Women’s Baseball” in Chinese Taipei has gone on to umpire internationally in World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) tournaments and made Forbes’ 2018 list of the “Most Powerful Women in International Sports”.
A passionate social worker, Liu works relentlessly to create opportunities for girls and women to get involved in sport, either in leadership roles or on the field of play by organising baseball clinics, workshops and international games in her home country. Her objective: to “strike out gender discrimination”.
Five Continental Trophies were awarded to the following people:
Winner for Africa: Ms Djatougbe “Nathalie” Noameshie (Togo)
From national athlete to the first fully qualified female international volleyball referee on her continent, and now Vice-President of the Togo National Olympic Committee (NOC), Noameshie has climbed the sporting leadership ladder and works actively to improve girls’ and women’s participation in sport nationally, at all levels – from grassroots to sporting administration.
Winner for the Americas: Comisión Mujer y deporte de Costa Rica (Costa Rica)
In 10 years, the Costa Rican NOC’s Women and Sport Commission has used workshops, group projects, education and sporting activities to encourage the integration of women in sport and increase participation numbers, and has lobbied for the creation of legal frameworks that recognise gender-based social issues and offer aid for women.
Winner for Asia: Ms Saada Al-Ismaili (Oman)
A leading activist for women’s sport in the Gulf region and the Arab world, Al-Ismaili has successfully designed and efficiently implemented plans and programmes aimed at promoting girls’ and women’s sport throughout the regions and governates of the Sultanate of Oman.
Winner for Europe: Ms Morana Palikovic Gruden (Croatia)
An experienced multitasking sports official and a leading figure of the European Olympic Committees (EOC) Gender Equality in Sport Commission, Gruden has been pivotal in increasing the number of women holding managerial positions at European, national and local sports association level.
Winner for Oceania: Vanuatu Volleyball Federation (Vanuatu)
Recognised locally as having paved the way for female participation in sport at grassroots and elite level, the Vanuatu Volleyball Federation is using the power of sport to prompt social change, shift attitudes and encourage active living for women.
Attendees at the Awards included the likes of IOC President Thomas Bach; UN Women Executive Director and UN Under-Secretary-General Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka; UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, Olympian and renowned Brazilian footballer Marta Vieira da Silva, who delivered a very personal speech on the power of sport to change lives ; NBC sportscaster Andrea Joyce; IOC Women in Sport Commission Chair Lydia Nsekera; and Olympians and gender equality advocates Kikkan Randall, Benita Fitzgerald Mosely and Donna De Varona, to list but a few.
IOC President Thomas Bach congratulated the winners on their achievements and said: “The Women and Sport Awards are very important because these personalities we are honouring have shown what can be achieved by empowering women and girls through sport. The awardees bring about change not only on the field of play, but also in the workplace, at home, in schools and in other areas of society. Supporting such champions for women’s empowerment is essential in our overall commitment to gender equality.”
He added: “In today’s world, no organisation or country can afford to let half of the population be left behind – either in sport or in society. Advancing women in and through sport is truly a team effort. By joining hands and working together, sport can inspire the necessary change and lead the way.”
UN Women Executive Director and UN Under-Secretary-General Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said: “We salute the winners of the Women and Sport Awards, who show us all how, when girls play sport, they can transform their own lives, as well as those around them. At UN Women, we have seen the girls in our sports programmes become change agents and role models in their families and communities as they gain confidence and skills. As a result, they return to school, secure quality jobs and lead community initiatives.”
She added: “I congratulate the IOC for its commitment to gender equality, and its shared belief in knocking down the barriers that still prevent women and girls from enjoying the full benefits of sport.”
Introduced in 2000, the IOC Women and Sport Awards are given to individuals or organisations that have made remarkable contributions to the development, encouragement and reinforcement of women’s and girls’ participation in sport, be it access to the field of play, courtside, or in sports administration and leadership roles.
Six trophies are distributed each year, one for each of the five continents and one at world level. In 20 years of the Awards, there have been 116 recipients from 65 different nations. These role models and change agents in the pursuit of gender equality are also supported with a grant to help them continue with their work.
Hosting the Awards in partnership with UN Women on the sidelines of the CSW is a first for the IOC. However, as the IOC seeks to capitalise on the transformational power of sport to foster gender equality and equal opportunities for women and men worldwide, such a partnership allows the IOC to extend its promotion of sport for social development beyond the Olympic Games and the Olympic Movement.
The International Olympic Committee is a not-for-profit independent international organisation made up of volunteers, which is committed to building a better world through sport. It redistributes more than 90 per cent of its income to the wider sporting movement, which means that every day the equivalent of 3.4 million US dollars goes to help athletes and sports organisations at all levels around the world.
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