Wonder Women in the Sport for Development Workshop in Tehran, Iran

Photo: Spin Club

The ITTF Foundation in association with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (German Development Cooperation/GIZ on behalf of Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung/BMZ) held a capacity-building workshop on using Table Tennis for Development (TT4D), hosted in Tehran, Iran, by Spin Club. The workshop, the second in a series of three international workshops, centres on the use of Sport for Development (S4D), focusing on using table tennis for specific development outcomes.

The second S4D workshop series conducted by the ITTF Foundation and GIZ looks different. This time, we held a hybrid workshop with 100% female participants, including two participants with disabilities and female-only volunteers and technical staff. Along with the Table Tennis for Development agenda, we promoted the use of table tennis for gender empowerment, as this is the project’s focus in Iran.

Gender equality is not possible without empowering the genders that are and will be marginalized. As a professional table tennis coach and athlete, who pursues the concern of gender equality for women, I seek to turn this individual ability into a collective benefit to use for the women of my country. I believe that women can play a role at high levels of society and take leadership if opportunities are not denied to them!” - Houri Sadat Seyed Aghamiri, Founder of Spin Club and Rising Stars project leader.

Twenty-five participants from various cities and associations participated in the 4-day workshop on 5-8 September 2022. They came from various roles as coach, volunteer, player, and teacher. Two female coaches with disabilities also joined the workshop; one of them has been an active coach for more than 45 years! The workshop was held in a fun and interactive mode. Participants worked in a group to brainstorm and create TT4D projects. They did a fantastic job creating and presenting a project for gender empowerment.

Following the session, the DBF (Dream Building Fund) ‘20 project leader Suheil Tandon from the Community Table Tennis and Laura Forero from the Affective Leadership presented their projects on using table tennis to promote gender equality, reduce violence, and increase self-esteem and decision-making skills for women and girls. After the workshop, they practised table tennis since they held the workshop in the Spin Club’s training centre.

This workshop was a world of new information. It made me more aware of my own and other people's rights and made me look at the sport of table tennis differently. All of us will undoubtedly leave this world one day. So, it is good to respect each other's rights and be kind to each other as much as we can. I believe that the future will change dramatically with S4D. I hope these changes will make our world a better place.” - Hananeh Nejati, the 17th years old Spin club player.

Mehrdad AliGhardashi, the President of the Table Tennis Federation of the Islamic Republic of Iran, shared his impression that sport is not the end of the goal. It is a means to achieve greater impact in creating positive changes in personal and social lives.

Gender equality, with the focus on women's empowerment, which is followed by Houri Seyed Aghamiri, Iran National Team coach, is a continuation of this ritual and behaviour and steps in the direction of nurturing athletes who are concerned and effective in their personal and social lives.” - Mehrdad AliGhardashi.

The workshop ended with a session on stakeholder engagement and fundraising strategies to ensure the project's sustainability. Lastly, Petra Sörling, the president of ITTF Foundation, made an inspiring closing mark to conclude the workshop.

“Through this workshop, Table Tennis brought together people from India, Colombia, Germany, Spain, Sweden, and of course, all parts of Iran. This is just a small example of how this beautiful sport can connect and unite different cultures, different ideas, and different people from all around the world, when we all agree to work towards the same goal. I am proud that the goal of this amazing workshop was gender empowerment, a topic very close to my heart along with sustainability, and I hope that one day we will not need to talk about these issues as a challenge.” - Petra Sörling.

We thank the Table Tennis Federation of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Spin Club, especially Houri Sadat Seyed Aghamiri, for their dedication and constant support before, during, and after the workshop. The last capacity-building workshop will be held in Uganda.

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