On this day as the world collectively raises its voice towards gender equality, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is lifting up three notable leaders who have done just that to earn the 2021 International Women’s Day Recognition awards.
Kate Caithness of World Curling Federation (Builder category), Iranian Para archer Zahra Nemati (Next Generation Leader category) and World Para Powerlifting (National Paralympic Committee/International Federation category) were named this year’s winners.
The annual recognition, which coincides on 8 March’s International Women’s Day, celebrates primarily women in the Paralympic Movement who have inspired and emulated the Paralympic ideals and are positive role models.
This is the second year the IPC International Women’s Day Recognition has expanded into categories since its inception in 2013. The winners were decided by the IPC’s Women in Sport Committee, chaired by Rita van Driel, who said:
“For 18 years now, one of the central aims of the IPC Women in Sport Committee has been to work to increase the number of women in leadership positions across the Paralympic Movement. Our International Women’s Day Recognition awards are a celebration of those who are breaking down barriers and opening up new opportunities for athletes, coaches, administrators and executives in Para sport.
“The Committee was thrilled with the standard of entries this year and we would like to thank everyone who entered. It’s incredibly important that we find out more about those making a difference and celebrate the best practice taking place. One thing is for certain, our winners today are flag bearers for women in the Paralympic Movement. There is so much to learn from Kate Caithness, Zahra Nemati and World Para Powerlifting. And the more we can identify and harness successes like theirs, the more we will increase the number of women in leadership positions and make our Movement even more diverse.“
KATE CAITHNESS - BUILDER
Caithness has served as World Curling Federation's President since 2010 and concludes her term after the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games. She is one three female International Federation presidents and has worked to develop wheelchair curling even before her presidency. From first holding try-out sessions in Scotland to playing a central part in the sport’s first World Championships in 2002, Caithness saw her efforts pay off when wheelchair curling made its Paralympic debut at Torino 2006.
Caithness said: “I’m stunned to get this. I actually didn’t know I had been put forward until I saw the shortlist. And when I saw the people that were on that, I thought, ‘Oh wow, well at least it’s nice to be considered’."
“It’s a great honour for wheelchair curling, a sport in which we have gender equality across the board. It’s also the sport that got me where I am to be honest. Wheelchair curling is a big part of my history within World Curling Federation. I’m absolutely thrilled and honoured to be given this recognition.”
Locally, she helped form the Scottish Wheelchair Curling Association and moved on to join World Curling Federation as project leader to develop the Para sport. Her latest achievement as President includes supporting efforts to include wheelchair mixed doubles into Milan Cortina 2026. It 2013 Caithness was given an OBE, a British order of chivalry, for 'Services to Curling and International Disability Sport’.
ZAHRA NEMATI – NEXT GENERATION
Iran’s first gold medallist at a Paralympic or Olympics has used her platform to be an activist for women and people with disabilities in her home country. Since making history at the London 2012 Paralympics, Nemati has been on the forefront of showing what women with an impairment can achieve as she continued collecting Paralympic and World Championship medals.
Nemati said: “The Next Generation award to is not only a reason to leap for joy, but it also means I have a huge responsibility to bear on my shoulders. I am now a woman pioneer who is branded by the IPC not only to inspire her peers and contemporary generation, but also to think, speak and act as a role model for the next generation of ladies who will make this planet a better place to live on an equal basis and more inclusivity than ever.”
Nemati also participated at the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and in May 2018, she was designated as the first Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Ambassador by the president of Global Understanding (GU) Regional Action Centre in Iran.
WORLD PARA POWERLIFTING – NPC/IF
For over a decade now, World Para Powerlifting has sought to advance the role of women in every element of their sport. Through collaboration with researchers, studies were conducted analysing the barriers and facilitators of female athletes, technical officials and coaches, which led to the development of dedicated programmes such as ‘She Can Lift’, that was launched to educate and empower women participants to become technical officials and coaches within the sport. Since 2019, “She Can Lift” has engaged and inspired participants from over twenty-five countries in Africa, the Americas, Europe and Asia.
World Para Powerlifting’s Head of Education and Development Dora Szatmari said: “I hope this recognition can provide more visibility to the initiative and women involved in the sport; more opportunities for NPCs and national sport federations to replicate the initiative at the local level; and more opportunities for other IFs to launch a similar project.”
Representation in World Para Powerlifting’s leadership has also improved from no members who were women on the Sport Technical Committee and Advisory Groups to six. In addition, all of these dedicated efforts have helped increase the number of women practising the sport by 138 per cent since 2009.
2020 - Paulina Malinowska-Kowalczyk (Builder), Maha Bargouthi (Next Generation) and Paralympics Australia (NPC/IF)
2019 – Deepa Malik
2018 – Dr. Hayat Khattab
2017 – Dr. Cheri Blauwet
2016 – Carla Qualtrough
2015 – Chantal Petitclerc
2014 – Rima Batalova
2013 – Sylvana Mestre