Vanuatu Women in Sport Commission (VanWIS) this month held the inaugural Women’s Sport Leadership Workshop as part of a week of celebrations for International Women’s Day (IWD) put on by the commission.

It is always a good time to celebrate the achievements and potential of women in sport and in our community rower Tilly Tumukon stated; “the workshop was very empowering and helpful. I plan to use the skills and knowledge obtained from the workshop to make a better difference in my life and other people’s lives”.

The workshop saw 29 women representing 13 sports federations, and some representing their schools, businesses and communities, participating in the three-day workshop. The workshop invited current and upcoming female leaders in sport to celebrate their strengths and achievements as well as learn new things from the workshop to build their capacity and empower them to further demonstrate effective leadership.

The theme of the workshop was “empowered women, empower women”, which aligned with this year’s IWD theme: “Each for Equal”. All of the participants have the power, the capacity and should be valued to use their voices in the decision-making processes of their sports.

Together as a network of female leaders they will also have capacity to affect change both in their sports and communities. Workshop participant, Virginia Taravaki (Netball) said; “after attending this empowering workshop, I am so excited of the new network of sisters I now have in sports and learning smart ways on how to deal with issues. My next step is to one day in the near future, run a workshop to pass on what we have learnt to girls and women in my community”.

The initial concept and ensuing workshop was initiated as a result of the passion and hard work of Jessica Richardson, an Australian Volunteer under the Australian Volunteer Program, funded by the Australian Government.

Jessica designed and facilitated the workshop as part of her role as the Equity and Inclusion Officer with VASANOC.

Inspired by a similar program, the Women’s Sport Leadership Academy, that she was lucky enough to attend in 2019, Jessica wanted to ensure women in Vanuatu had the same opportunity. Jessica sits on the board of VanWIS, who helped to identify four Ni-Vanuatu female mentors from the national sporting community to join her as mentors for the workshop.

The workshop would not have been possible without the fantastic mentors who committed to both attending the workshop and continuing to work to support the participants ongoing personal development following the workshop.

The mentors were Anolyn Lulu- Sportswoman of the Year, Athletes Commission Chair and Olympic Table Tennis Player, Julia King- VanWIS Chair, VASANOC Member, H4F Football Leader, Business Owner, Liz Pechan- Vanuatu Paralympic Committee Treasurer, Tennis and Rowing Leader, Business Owner, and Stef Mahuk – Surfing Leader and Lawyer. VanWIS Chairwoman, Julia King said she was “honoured to have been part of this workshop especially being able to acquire experience on similar courses over so many years then seeing these aspiring women leaders stepping up, sharing , allowing themselves to be vulnerable enough to learn and raise onto another level.” She was “so happy to see that Vanuatu Sports has hope in these young fearless females who have made necessary sacrifices from their normal routines to be here and learn as much as they can, build new relationships and network knowing they all serve the same cause -Building a Bigger and Better Sporting Platform-for the future of Vanuatu”.

Workshop participant Daisyrose Sipiti (Tennis) spoke about the impact of the workshop on her personally with workshop facilitator, Jessica Richardson, stating

“I just want to say a huge thank you for the workshop it was very helpful to most of us, especially in the long run and we are glad you shared that knowledge with us. The workshop helped me understand myself better, identifying my strengths and weaknesses and helped me provide solutions or alternatives to my problems or the issues I face or will face.

It helped me understand who I am so that I may be able to understand and be proactive to those that require my help, especially as a woman leader.

The workshop inspired and motivated me as a woman leader. It was also a great way to meet other future leaders, assuring me that I am not alone in this fight but I’m in a network of powerful, strong women, fighting for the same cause. The workshop alight and rekindle the better leader flame in me.”

The activities during the workshop focused on identifying the thinking of participants and current landscape for women in leadership in Vanuatu. It also challenged participants to change their self-perceptions and frame personal goals as well as defining the steps to achieve them.

A key objective of the workshop was to build a network of confident and empowered women in sport which was successfully achieved through the strong bonds made between the participants as well as mentors.

Georgilla Worwor (Rowing) a workshop participant, was able to identify her own leadership pathway; “the workshop was very inspirational and packed with amazing women leaders which facilitated the perfect environment for empowerment and growth.

”By the end of this workshop I could break down my goal and create an action plan towards it- I felt more secured with my goal and I knew the steps I would have to climb in my leadership journey.”

The feedback from the workshop has been very positive with 85% of participants rating the workshop as excellent and over 90% of the participants recommending the workshop is offered again for more women in Vanuatu to attend.

This encouraging response was echoed by Vanuatu women’s rugby 7s captain Rachelle Tari ; “I found the workshop so empowering, and it brought me confidence because I know that I could become a leader too after finding my strengths and weaknesses and ways I could improve from it.

”It was also very fun, interesting, learnt a lot of new things I didn’t know before and just it opens my mind to think beyond of what is yet to come. I’m planning next to focus on my goals right now by following the smart goal settings to become a better leader someday.”

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