Special unit aims to boost female participation in sport

Dominique Niyonizigiye (left) and Beng Choo Low
Dominique Niyonizigiye (left) and Beng Choo Low take a break during the IOC-NOCC seminar on Women and Sports Leadership in Siem Reap yesterday. Sareth Meas

The National Olympic Committee of Cambodia in collaboration with the country’s Women and Sports Commission will set up a new unit within to best promote greater participation of women in sporting activities across the country.

“This new unit and its direction will soon become a central part of the Commission’s on going operations” Minister for Tourism and President of NOCC Thong Khon told a gathering of delegates from 26 countries in his key note address at the IOC-NOCC seminar on women and sports leadership/training at the Sokhalay Hotel in Siem Reap yesterday.

Declaring the four-day seminar open,the Tourism Minister said the NOCC had been working diligently to help women reach their leadership potential as coaches, officials and administrators by providing more than 1,000 of them with scholarship grants.

“As more Cambodian women continue to excel despite limited participation numbers, we have been forced to take a closer look at this aspect.” he said.

“We saw two outstanding performances from our female athletes in 2014. Taekwondo star Sorn Seavmey brought home our first ever Asian Games gold medal from Incheon and wrestler Ny Samnang got us a bronze medal at the Asian Beach Games in Phuket, Thailand.

“They are now becoming role models for women in sports as well as the larger population” the NOCC president said.

“In the context of best practice governance in sport, the NOCC will develop a tailored program of continual development for gender representation on boards.” he said, adding that: “Cambodia will continue to work closely with the Women Commission to ensure it sets the strongest example for gender equality and serve as a model for national sporting organisations”

In her welcome speech, Vice Governor of Phnom Penh and president of the Women and Sports Commission of Cambodia, Mak Vannsitha hoped that the participants would be hugely benefited from the wealth of knowledge that the four days of this seminar will generate.

Meanwhile, on the sidelines of the opening session, IOC project manager Dominique Niyonizigiye, who began her administrative career in as the deputy secretary-general of the Burundi Tennis Federation, outlined in an exclusive interview with the Post six key areas of development for a country like Cambodia.

“Women’s way of life in the 21st century makes them natural leaders. What we need to do is to channel those leadership qualities to sports” she said.

“My first priority is to see more women get elected to sports bodies. In situations where this is either too difficult or complicated or near impossible then co-option is what I suggest,” Dominique said.

“To encourage more women to participate in sports and decision-making process is very important. In the 2012 London Olympics women’s participation accounted for 44 per cent. But sadly the figure is only 18 per cent in administrative roles.

“The IOC set a target of 20 per cent back in 2005 and what we have seen is a slight fall which is quite disappointing” she noted.

Interestingly, among the 45 NOCs in Asia, the biggest continent, only Indonesia has had a female president and Jordan a secretary-general, a statistic that magnifies the huge gender gap that exists at the top levels of administration

Developing communication skills and raising visibility are of crucial importance for women to succeed in moving up the leadership ladder, Dominique pointed out. “Interaction with the media plays a huge role and in this context the IOC and the OCA will jointly hold in May this year a media seminar in Qatar’’ she said.