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Women working on Team Up-supported programs in the Pacific were among the speakers at the forum / Australian Pavilion, Expo 2020 Dubai

Expo 2020 Dubai

A cohort of sportswomen from the Pacific have just attended Expo 2020 Dubai, where they took part in a week of activities hosted by the Australian Government to showcase women in sport, centred around International Women’s Day.

Expo 2020 Dubai is the latest edition of World Expo, a global event that happens every five years with rotating host nations. Expo takes place in a large precinct where countries from around the world present a pavilion showcasing their nation to international visitors. Expo 2020 Dubai was initially scheduled for that year but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is currently running until 31 March 2022.

Women in sport from Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu joined visiting sportswomen and sports leaders from Australia and around the world to speak at multiple events about how Australia and its Pacific neighbours are partnering through sport. The week’s events were delivered by Team Up, the Australian Government’s sport for development program in the Asia-Pacific, supported by Australia’s Sports Diplomacy Advisory Council.

The group included:

  • Cathy Neap, program manager for the NRL in PNG League Bilong Laif program, which is supported by the Australian High Commission through the PNG Aus Partnership
  • Tokyo 2020 Paralympian Nelly Ruth Leva, who works for Badminton PNG on the Inclusive GymBad sport for development program in Port Moresby, which is supported through Team Up
  • Lavenia Yalovi from Fiji Rugby, who is national coordinator for the Get into Rugby PLUS program in Fiji, which is supported through Team Up
  • Melissa Fare representing Vanuatu Cricket Association (VCA), whose social impact program, Appeal Against Violence, is supported through Team Up

The week’s activities included:

  • a Women in Sport Forum showcasing the global impact of women-focused sports initiatives, with the visiting Pacific sportswomen presenting about the programs they work on and keynote speakers including the Secretary General of FIFA, Fatma Samoura
  • sports activities for Expo visitors on International Women’s Day
  • an event celebrating sport in the Pacific, featuring the visiting Pacific sportswomen in conversation with four Australian women, accompanied by a Pacific band and attended by representatives of Pacific country pavilions at Expo 2020
  • a sports diplomacy roundtable event, which shared perspectives on people-to-people connections through sport around the world 
  • the visiting Pacific sportswomen assisting with a sports media workshop for students from the University of Wollongong Dubai, sharing tips about interviewing athletes and career progression in the media
  • a screening of Power Meri, the PNG Orchids documentary starring Cathy Neap, who was the Orchids’ inaugural captain
  • visits to the Fiji, PNG and Vanuatu pavilions

"The experience of a lifetime"

Melissa Fare, who co-hosted the Sport in the Pacific event, said: “Being part of these events has been an honour because I have had the opportunity to not only share the great work that sport, especially cricket, is doing in Vanuatu but also to listen to and meet like-minded women who are creating positive change in their communities through sport around the world.

“Sport in Vanuatu and the Pacific is evolving, and it is a huge privilege to be able to share and bring visibility to the great work that sport is doing in partnership with Australia through Team Up to empower our communities to be more inclusive, gender equal, healthier and free from gender-based violence. 

“Expo 2020 Dubai has been the experience of a lifetime because it has brought people together in the midst of COVID. It has been incredible to visit pavilions from different countries, learn something about their culture and country, meet people from all over the world, share our common interests but, at the same time, learn about what makes everyone unique and how we are all working towards a better future.”

“It was really amazing coming to Expo,” agreed Nelly Ruth Leva. “Being able to speak about my road to Tokyo and my work on the Inclusive GymBad program with people from around the world was a huge opportunity. It was also a big honour to meet some other Paralympians from Australia, Curtis McGrath and Jessica Smith. I am even more motivated to train hard for my next Games after this experience.”

Cathy Neap, who was one of the keynote speakers at the Women in Sport Forum, said: “It has been a long time since we got to meet with our fellow women in sport from other countries because of COVID, so Expo was an amazing chance to do that and to hear from people in other parts of the world about the great work they are doing in women’s sport. There are a lot of opportunities to work together in the future. It was also a huge honour to be one of the keynote speakers at the Women in Sport Forum alongside the Secretary General of FIFA.”

Lavenia Yalovi, who also met with Oceania Rugby colleagues and attended a Fiji Drua match in Australia on her way to Dubai said: “We don’t often get the chance to share the work we do in sport for development with people from other countries and hear what they are doing, but Expo was a wonderful opportunity to do that and especially meet women from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Jordan to hear about their work. Speaking at the students’ media workshop about my experiences as a commentator was also a nice way to share tips with the next generation of women in sport.”

Australia’s Commissioner General to Expo 2020 Dubai, Justin McGowan said: “The Pacific is Australia’s home, and it was fantastic to welcome women in sport from across the Pacific to the Australian Pavilion at Expo 2020. We were inspired by their determination, stories of courage, and athleticism. In the Pacific we share a common love of sport, and it was great to see that shared passion on show in Dubai.”

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