Last month saw the OFC and representatives from our Member Associations take part in the International Working Group on Women and Sport (IWG) World Conference. Held every four years, the event in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland was the eighth time the conference has been held and was the largest yet – with 1,200 attending in person and 500 virtual participants taking part.

The conference focusses on action that can be taken to drive gender equity in sport.  With the support of the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, OFC were able to bring representatives from across the Pacific to take part in the conference to learn, network and share experiences from our region.

OFC had four presentations at the conference. New Zealand Football were also well represented, with presentations on the barriers and progress made around Women’s Football and the FIFA 2023 Women’s World Cup Legacy programmes for New Zealand and across the Pacific.

Tonga Football Association Social Responsibility Manager, Palu Uhatahi Tu’amoheloa said of the conference “IWG has been instrumental in terms of learnings from our sisters and brothers globally. Not only that but it motivates me in my role as a woman to be resilient and work hard to raise awareness on gender equality in Oceania.”

Solomon Islands Football Association Social Responsibility Manager, Maria Rufina was also motivated by attending the conference.

“I am honoured to be a participant at the IWG.  Being at the IWG has inspired and motivated me to continue to be that voice to empower women and girls in our society.  And sport is that vehicle for empowering our women and girls… As a country that will be hosting the Pacific Games next year, we need to first unite all sports that will be represented.”

During the conference OFC launched our Gender Equality Playbook, a resource based on extensive research across our region that contains recommended actions that will help improve equity and equality across sport participation, leadership, coaching, policy and visibility across our region.

OFC Social Responsibility Consultant, Matelita Vuakoso attended and was “impressed with the global commitment and efficiency sport has taken to inspire change.”

“Personally, I learnt that sport has been progressing in women and sport space,” she said.

“It just takes more collaboration and consistency to move it to the next level every time with the commitment of individuals and organisations, as a nation and globally.”

Vuakoso said that the themes explored at IWG and very much in line with OFC’s social responsibility goals.

“With the All-In strategy and the launch of the Gender Equality Playbook, I believe women’s football in our region are ready for the next step. With resources available to guide and support I believe come the next years women will progress in leadership, coaching, administration, increase participation and this will elevate women football in Oceania. We will see more capable and competitive women in the football industry in Oceania region as well as reducing those gender norms.”

The IWG was established almost 30 years ago and is the world’s largest network dedicated to advancing gender equality in sport and physical activity. Committed to leading positive change that aligns to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 5 – to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls – the IWG has been hosted by New Zealand since 2018 with the secretariat moving to the UK where the next world conference will be hosted in 2026.

The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade have been an important partner for OFC in maximising the power of football for social development in the Pacific. They have been a long-standing partner of the Just Play programme which has provided opportunities for children to engage in football and learn important skills linked to social development since 2009. Their continued support has been valuable for OFC to leverage off the hosting of the IWG in New Zealand this year and the hosting of the Women’s World Cup in 2023.