The Beijing Platform for Action Needs to be a Fulfilled Promise for Women and Girls

This month, we kick off our inaugural Inspirational Women Series speaking with Ms. Hajera Kajee, current ITTF Gender Commissioner. Ms. Kajee has a long standing commitment and passion in sports administration and activism. Most notably, the limelight set light on her when she was elected as the treasurer of the South African Table Tennis Board (SATTB) in 1988 and made history as the first woman to be elected as an executive in the National Olympic Committee (NOCSA) as the Vice President in 1996. Since then, it has been onwards and forwards, matching to the beat of her own drum. Today she serves in the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) as the Women In Sport Commissioner since appointment in 2013.

“It takes dedication, boldness and hard work to be part of the top executive in a normally male dominated industry. As a woman you have to ensure that your voice is heard and demand the same opportunity and benefits as your male counterparts“

Hajera Kajee

Ready to take up the challenge for the promotion of the girl child and women, Ms Kajee was invited by the ITTF to present at the Women Seminar in Shanghai, China in 2006. She shared her challenges and experiences breaking down barriers for women in table tennis. This invite was a turning point. Have I succeeded? In certain areas yes; women courses, improvement in women representation in commissions or committees, collective effort for equal prize money, 70% representation at Continental structures - there is more that can be done. But it is a long journey to achieve total gender equality within the structures of the ITTF.

Sport as one of the most important socio-cultural learning experiences for girls and women creates access to safe, female-friendly public spaces where girls and women can gather to learn new skills, form friendships, expand social networks, and receive mentoring. Access to these safe spaces is an important strategy in overcoming the social isolation that many girls face and that further exacerbate discrimination and gender-based violence. Quality sports programming develops confidence and leadership in both girls and women. Sport is an ideal means to teach teamwork, goal-setting and enhancing leadership skills. Sports programs further empower girls and women to act in their own best interest. Agency and leadership cultivated through sports programs for girls and women build a tremendous source of human capital by developing the maximum potential of each individual.

“A safe and supportive environment is a contributory factor in motivating young people to make healthy choices.“

Sport for development organizations, decision makers and civil society realize that much has to be done to improve the lives of girls and women in sport and through their joint efforts, I believe that we will witness more progress, continue to bring people together, promote a more inclusive and peaceful world through sport’s universal values and principles. The ITTF Foundation can play a role to advocate equal distribution of power and influence.

Our goal is straightforward: renewed commitment, strengthened action and increased resources to realized gender equality, women’s empowerment and human rights of women and girls – UN Executive Director on the Beijing Declaration and Platform For Action. The Platform for Action emphasizes that women share common concerns that can be addressed only by working together and in partnership with men towards the common goal of gender equality around the world - Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, 1995.

A critical aspect of being a leader is being fearless about taking risks and accepting failure and rejection. Women are generally averse to taking risks but risk-taking is a key element in the leadership environment and taking calculated risks is essential.

“We must demand acknowledgement of our rights as women to receive equal opportunity to participate in all spheres of life, especially in boards and the sporting field.“

Photo credits:
UN World Conference on Women – UN/DPI 071031/Yao Da Wei
Ms. Hajera Kajee- Herself/Getty Images

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