Gymnastics empowering women in Fiji

In 2019 the Oceania Gymnastics Union (OGU) – in partnership with Gymnastics Australia (GA) and the Gymnastics Federation of Fiji (GFF) – launched a new initiative to compliment the very successful Australian Government Pacific Sports Partnerships (PSP) funded AeroGym Fiji program.

AeroGym Fiji is a fun and exciting activity to encourage women to want to get active and improve their fitness. It is conducted either in or outdoors, in villages and communities, and requires no equipment other than a speaker and music, which are provided by GFF Sport Development Officers.

Building on the continuing community AeroGym programs, a three day workshop series has been introduced, leading to the annual Showcase Performance event later in the year. Using Aerobic Gymnastics as a conduit, training was facilitated by Australian expert, Debbs van Hagen, supported by Cook Islands Gymnastics Federation President, Raukura Ellison, Gymnastics Federation of Fiji Secretary General, Mherina Ahmed, and Sport Development Coordinator, Selevasio (Stino) Lebaiwasa – a true collaboration of skills and experience from across Oceania.

UN Women recognise sport as an important vehicle to achieving gender equality and the “Building Leadership Capacity of Women in Sport in Fiji” workshop series focused on two priority development objectives; increased and improved leadership opportunities for women, and increased participation in regular exercise to assist in preventing non-communicable disease (NCD) risk factors.

The facilitators worked with 30 Fijian women selected from AeroGym communities, with the goal to empower them as leaders in sport and other aspects of their lives. Ongoing mentoring is provided to participants following the initial training, aimed at achieving the goals of their individual action plans, providing the support they need in order to reach their own versions of empowerment. To identify successes, learnings, opportunities and empowerment gained as a result of the activities, baseline and post event interviews are compared. On the final day, it was an honour to have Deputy High Commissioner, Anna Dorney, and Third Secretary, Mark Tamsitt, present certificates recognising the skills of the participants and the training completed.