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Team Up partners in Tonga doing the #EmbraceEquity pose for International Women's Day 2023 / Team Up

IWD 2023

Embracing equity is the 2023 theme of International Women’s Day but is something that staff on Team Up-supported programs have at the front of their mind throughout the year.

Programs under Team Up are specifically designed to create opportunities for women and girls to enjoy the benefits of sport, both on and off the field. Often, this requires more than just inviting women and girls to participate – it means creating an environment that removes barriers to participation.

Team Up’s gender-focused programs embrace equity approaches as they work towards addressing gender inequalities in sport and society. In Tonga, Team Up’s four partnerships are spending a week together for a workshop to learn and share – the first of its kind for the program in the Kingdom – and partners have been reflecting on how they embrace equity as a core part of creating safe, inclusive and accessible environments.

How we #EmbraceEquity in netball

The One Netball program runs activities for different age groups and abilities, and deliberately schedules them concurrently. 

Tonga Netball Association technical development officer Uinita Tauhalaliku explains: “We have our KidsNET program for 5-12 year olds, our under 13, under 18 and open age programs, our ‘golden girls’ program for women over 35 years of age or with a body mass index (BMI) of over 35, and our mixed netball program for all genders. 

“Running these programs all at the same time means that entire families can come and participate together, and reduces barriers to certain members of the family getting involved. We have seen increased participation among women of all ages, as well as men, thanks to this approach.”

How we #EmbraceEquity in football

The Just Play program, which runs football activities for children and young people, encourages girls to participate by allowing them to wear whatever they feel comfortable in. 

“We’ve noticed some girls are not comfortable wearing shorts to play football, or their parents would prefer them to wear skirts, so we encourage them to participate wearing skirts, or even skirts over their shorts,” explains Just Play Master Instructor Lafaele Moala.

How we #EmbraceEquity in table tennis

The table tennis-based Smash Down Barriers program modifies its activities to suit participants of all abilities, with a particular focus on creating a safe, inclusive and accessible environment for women and girls to participate. 

“We have created adapted activities for visually impaired people, modified racquets for people with upper limb disabilities, and adapted rules for players in wheelchairs,” explains Salote Fungavai, the CEO of Tonga Table Tennis Federation.

How we #EmbraceEquity in rugby league

With rugby league growing in popularity in Tonga, NRL Tonga, through the League for Life program, is now working to remove barriers to women’s participation. 

“As we create more opportunities for women in Tonga to play rugby league, some of their husbands have been telling them they should not play, because they believe their wives should be at home looking after the children,” explains Lupe Feao, game development officer for NRL Tonga. 

“We are now planning to offer babysitting services at rugby league training sessions and at matches to address this issue and encourage more women to get involved.”

Team Up partners across the Pacific are celebrating IWD with activities showcasing their approaches to embracing equity.

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