Netball’s role as a leader in social change was highlighted at a major international sports conference in Helsinki, Finland.
Speaking at the 6th IWG Conference on Women and Sport, themed “Lead the Change – Be the Change”, Netball Australia’s International Development Manager Olivia Philpott presented on the successes of the Kau Mai Tonga program, with the National Operations Manager from Tonga Netball Association (TNA), Katalin Baranyi.
The Tongan-based netball program has used strategic health communication to change attitudes towards women being active, and utilises a mass media campaign to motivate women aged 15-45 to participate in netball, and increase awareness of the risks of an inactive and unhealthy lifestyle.
“Since Kau Mai Tonga’s inception in 2012 over 9,900 women and girls have participated in netball activities, and a national survey found 90 per cent of respondents were aware of the campaign,” Philpott said.
The program is implemented through an innovative partnership model between Netball Australia, TNA and the Australian and Tongan Governments.
It is a keystone of the Australian Sports Outreach Program in Tonga which, with funding from the Australian aid program, aims to contribute to the Tonga National Strategy to Prevent and Control Non Communicable Diseases.
“The Australian aid program’s support of women’s sport in the Pacific has been crucial in empowering female leaders to create enabling environments and encourage women and girls to get active and take responsibility for their own health and that of their families and community members. With this support, Netball Australia and TNA have been able to promote this program to an international audience,” Philpott said.
Baranyi travelled from Tonga to present and saw the opportunity as valuable professional development.
“I was so fortunate to be in attendance with some very inspiring women and learn about a range of initiatives aimed at reducing the barriers which impede equal opportunities for women and girls to be involved in sport at all levels,” Baranyi said.
“There is so much that I will be able to take back to contribute to developing sport programs for women in Tonga.”
Netball Australia’s presentation was selected from over 240 submissions, to be highlighted at the conference.
Distinguished speakers included IOC President, Thomas Bach; Anita DeFrantz, a member of the IOC Executive Committee and Honorary Member of the IOC Women and Sport Commission; Sir Philip Craven, IPC President and IOC Member; Peter Tallberg, IOC Member; Claudia Bokel, the IOC Athletes’ Commission Chair IOC Executive Board Member; and Beckie Scott, Chair of the Athlete Committee for World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
In his speech, IOC President, Thomas Bach, underlined the leading role sport can play in advancing gender equality.
“We must do more to bring women into sports leadership. We have seen what women can do on the field of play. We need their intellect, energy and creativity in the administration and management of sport as well,” Bach said.
The growth and development of netball in Tonga was recognised during the conference with the International Netball Federation (INF) presenting the Pacific Island with full international membership – opening the door for future international competition.
“Netball Australia continues to work with the Tonga Netball Association to build the organisation’s capacity to lead the delivery of quality, accessible participation opportunities for women and girls,” Philpott said.
More than 800 participants from nearly 100 countries attended the four-day conference which celebrated the achievement of positive changes experienced by women and girls in the field of sport and physical activity since the adoption of the Brighton Declaration on Women and Sport (1994).
Picture above: The International Netball Federation presents Tonga with full membership during the 6th IWG Conference on Women and Sport in Helsinki, Finland.