The Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee, (TTOC), has come in for high praise from President of the Commonwealth Games Federation, Dame Louise Martin, for taking the lead in shining the spotlight on women, at its annual Women in Leadership Forum, which addressed gender inequality and focused on ways to create a more level playing field for women and girls in sport.

“Hosting conferences like this one puts Trinidad and Tobago on the world stage as a country willing to discuss various topics, especially spearheading in women’s activities. This will encourage other small countries to follow their lead to try to encourage gender balance,” Martin said in a subsequent interview.

Now in its third year, the annual women’s forum, themed, ‘Gender Equality is Change and Change is Painful,’ was held at the Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre, on September 28, and attracted 120 participants from various fields throughout the region, including sport, business and media.

“Women are on the ascendancy now, believing that they have the skill sets, the will and ability to be part of the Leadership group,” she said. “Good mentors are essential for those at the beginning of their journey. My advice is, set your target, believe in yourself and go for it!”

Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs, Shamfa Cudjoe, who delivered the feature address, also commended the TTOC for “being trailblazers” and “providing stellar leadership and direction” in promoting women and girls in sport. Minister Cudjoe stated that while some progress has been made where gender equality is concerned, there is still much more work to be done. She said the time has come to move from talk to action.

“Sport is a powerful platform for promoting gender equality, empowering women and girls, developing communities, improving society, and advancing the national development agenda. For this reason, the national policy on sport emphasizes total participation in sport and aims to expand the reach of sport, making it accessible to all, cutting across physical ability, age and of course, gender. I have immense appreciation for this year’s theme, as it reminds me of the hurdles in bringing about social change, but more so, it puts into perspective the tremendous effort and commitment required from all of us to achieve equality and promote women as leaders in sport.”

She added, “I can reflect on over one year as sport minister. The stereotypes, cultural biases, the need to create our space. The many experiences that female leaders face in male dominated settings.

Sometimes women are isolated from discussions and activities.” The minister also took the opportunity to shed some light on the recently launched Pink Reign Campaign, which aims to promote the full participation of women and girls in sport and provide opportunities to increase awareness and participation in the key aspects of sport and physical activity. This initiative, she said, will also facilitate the development of women and girls, seven years and over, who are interested, but not sufficiently informed about sport and physical activity, and who need encouragement and support to develop their sporting abilities.

“We cannot just hope that evolution happens over time. We must make a conscious, clear, and comprehensive effort to pursue and attain this equality. We are here not just to play, but to participate at any and all levels - athlete, spectator, journalist, commentator, coach, president, manager, and yes, we’re here to be active board members and directors too. Once you get in an influential position, you are duty bound to develop a pipeline, so your struggle won’t have to be repeated.”

TTOC President, Brian Lewis, said the event was a major success and reiterated the TTOC’s commitment to ensure that female athletes are equally equipped to perform and excel. The TTOC, Lewis notes, also acts as the Trinidad and Tobago Commonwealth Games Association, (TTCGA), which addresses gender equality and gender equity in the Olympic and Commonwealth sports movements.

“The TTOC remains dedicated to ensuring that awareness around the key challenges surrounding gender equality remains at the forefront of the national, regional and international discourse, as we seek specific, workable solutions to these gender equality challenges.”

The forum was moderated by journalist, Franka Philip, who concluded the day-long event with an interactive session on the positives and negatives of social media and how athletes can utilise social media to build their own brands.

Written by Cherisse Moe | Photos - Maria Nunes

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