WAO holds virtual event to celebrate women empowerment through sports

by LYDIA NATHAN / pic by BERNAMA

THE Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) recently hosted the International Day of the Girl Virtual Sports Festival, aiming to celebrate women and empowerment through sports.

The virtual event that was in collaboration with the Embassy of The Netherlands in Malaysia was held on Oct 24, 2020, and is part of WAO’s #GirlsForGoals Campaign.

Among the agenda for the event were special messages from renowned local athletes including squash icon Datuk Nicol Ann David, Olympic-qualifying gymnast Farah Ann Abdul Hadi (picture), and athletes from the national rugby and cricket teams.

In a statement, the organisation said the campaign prioritises girls from marginalised communities and has grown to become a multifaceted national campaign aimed at creating safe spaces for girls through sports.

WAO ED Sumitra Visvanathan said sports can be very important in countering discrimination that young girls face, and when participated in, can award autonomy and control.

“Over the years, we’ve heard more of female athletes and sporting role models, while women presence in sports has never been more impactful. But in Malaysia, the sports potential of many of our young girls remain untapped and unexplored,” she said.

She added that sports can help young women develop respect for their bodies and build confidence and self-esteem.

“WAO believes in our girls, and over our festival programme today, we hope to inspire young girls to achieve excellence in whatever they aspire to do, in sports and in life. Girls deserve the opportunities and the spotlight to make decisions and advocate for change,” Sumitra said.

The virtual event also discussed the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), aiming to play a role in helping young women realise their rights.

Sumitra said through the SDGs’ five videos, WAO hopes to highlight the unique struggles that young women face today which include child marriage, female genital mutilation, sexual abuse, period poverty, and lack of access to education.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia’s Children’s Commissioner, professor Datuk Noor Aziah Mohd Awal said she wanted to emphasis a child’s right to play which in turn not only develops a physical and mental state, but also teaches teamwork, builds confidence, and empowers one.

“This includes your right to play sports. As a girl, you have the right to play sports equally with any other child, with any boy. It is part of your right to have a good life and grow. It is not true that you are weak because you’re a girl, this is called a stereotype,” she said.

She added that no child should be stopped from taking part in sports because of gender, or have a special need.

“I hope to one day see more girls representing Malaysia in all sports. I hope to see you win our first Olympic gold medal, or score the winning goal or point in the World Cup, in whichever sport that you love,” Noor Aziah said.