“The IPC has always viewed gender equity and the participation of girls and women in Paralympic Sport as a priority, and is continuously dedicated to addressing the actual and perceived barriers of women in sport,” Sir Philip said.
Taking place in the afternoon with the theme “Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities: Progress for All”, numerous members of the Paralympic Family watched as representatives of the Paralympic Movement highlighted the achievements of women in sport. The International Women’s Day also celebrates its 100th year in 2010.
Participants at the event included IPC President Sir Philip Craven, IPC Governing Board members Alan Dickson, Patrick Jarvis, Ann Cody and Rita Van Driel, and IPC Chief Executive Officer Xavier Gonzalez. Female representatives from National Paralympic Committees (NPC), female athletes, and Vancouver 2010 Organizing Committee (VANOC) representatives were also in attendance.
The event included the raising of the UN flag, and the IPC President handing over flowers to females in the audience. In his speech, Sir Philip Craven said that the day was a special opportunity to celebrate progress together.
“The IPC has always viewed gender equity and the participation of girls and women in Paralympic Sport as a priority, and is continuously dedicated to addressing the actual and perceived barriers of women in sport,” Sir Philip said. “Many women throughout history have contributed to the Paralympic Movement in roles that not only include athletes, but administrators, coaches and volunteers.”
Sir Philip also honoured the late Gillian Hall, who was a leader in sport for persons with a disability in New Zealand and the Head of Classification for the IPC Alpine Skiing Sport Technical Committee.
Many women have been instrumental in the Paralympic Movement over the years, including Joan Scruton who was the long-time assistant to founder Sir Ludwig Guttmann. Athletes like Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson (GBR), who has won a total of 11 Paralympic medals, continue to inspire young women in following their dreams and competing in Paralympic Sport. Other strong female athletes seen on the medal podium in recent years include Wheelchair Tennis player Esther Vergeer (NED), Cross-Country and Biathlon skier Verena Bentele (GER), Table Tennis player Natalia Partyka (POL) and Swimmer Natalie du Toit (RSA).
Participation of women at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games hit a record high at 34% of the athletes, or 1,367 of 3,951. At the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, an expected total of 112 female athletes will be competing, which is an increase from the 99 female athletes at the Torino 2006 Paralympic Winter Games.
The first Chairperson of the IPC’s Women in Sport Committee, Ann Cody, also spoke at the International Women’s Day celebration, recalling her experience with the Paralympic Movement and also the future outlook on participation.
The Women in Sport Committee was created by the IPC in 2003 to address not only the low number of female athletes and events in the Paralympic Games, but the lack of women in coaching, officiating and leadership positions. The role of the Women in Sport Committee is to advocate for the full inclusion of girls and women at all levels of Paralympic Sport, to identify barriers that restrict participation, to recommend policies and initiatives that address these barriers, and oversee the implementation of initiatives to increase participation.
The IPC Diversity Policy also addresses the importance of gender diversity within the Paralympic Movement, and recognizes the importance of diversity within all levels of the organization and throughout the wider movement. Sport links together all aspects of a diverse society and thereby contributes not only to the development of the individual, but also encourages respect for others, which leads to greater understanding and the establishment of a more just society.
The IPC also recognizes that discrimination is unacceptable and consequently will not tolerate discrimination either directly or indirectly on the grounds of race, gender, marital status, age, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, disability, religion or belief, working pattern, employment status, gender identity (transgender), colour, political persuasion or English language competencies.
For more information on the Women in Sport Committee, please visit the official IPC website under IPC-> Organization.
For more information about International Women’s Day, please visit www.internationalwomensday.com.