Pacific Islands female athletes have made statements in the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games indicating the growth of “women in sports” in the region.
There are many hindrances to women’s participation in sports in the Pacific compared to the attitudes and perceptions of women’s roles in society and sports across the globe.
Speaking to the Oceania National Olympics Committee (ONOC) media, Solomon Islands triathlon coach Nathan Siofa Thompson described culture as a barrier to women’s sports participation.
“The culture too. The last time we sent a team to compete in 2015, there were six. Three boys, three girls. Now there is only Andriana because the other two are married and their husbands don’t let them train, ” Thompson told ONOC.
According to ONOC media, another barrier would be the stigma attached to certain sports, for example, women in weightlifting and women in rugby, both sports which are regarded as male dominant sports.
Cook Islands Weightlifting Federation’s Manine Lynch said the regional perceptions of this stigma are slowly changing and regional societies must make women feel they can participate in these so-called male dominant sports, and also value the role of women.
“Look at the gold medalist (Australia’s Eileen Cikamatana), she was amazing and hasn’t compromised any of her femininity. She’s out there with her eyelashes, her hair, and killing the weights. It’s so motivating and encouraging for the rest of us and hopefully everyone watching,” said Lynch.
In Vanuatu, the women’s beach volleyball team with the support of the “Volley for Change Organisation” are using the sport to educate women on healthy eating habits and better health, and teach them about their rights.
Vanuatu Beach Volleyball president Debbie Masefalo said traditionally women in Vanuatu stay at home and look after their families.
“But we empower the women through ‘Volley for Change’ explaining that they can also play sports,” Masefalo said.
Commonwealth Games president, Dame Louise Martin said women in sport were a key focus of the 2022 Games but there was still much more to be done.
According to ONOC, this is exactly what Equity Commission Oceania was striving to achieve, and sports is just the beginning.