Breaking the bias - gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow

March 8, 2022
Breaking the bias - gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow

Message from Dr Robin Mitchell, ONOC President

I’m pleased to join Helen to support the ONOC celebration of International Women’s Day 2022 and recognize the tremendous work done by the ONOC Equity Commission.

Previously known as the ONOC Women in Sport Commission, it has under Helen Brownlee’s leadership and guidance achieved many milestones we can be proud of as a Continental Association in the Olympic Movement.

This year, we are celebrating the postponed marking of the ONOC 40th anniversary – we have been engaging in a period of research and reflection to document our four decades of existence. We will be taking this process to our athletes, members, and partners in the coming months as we work toward a book we will launch in October.  

It is heartwarming to see through our 40-year journey a history of women’s increasing involvement in sporting administration, leadership, coaching and technical expertise in sport and sporting organisations.  

While Oceania is a complex and diverse region with need for improvements in gender equality, gender equity and for structural reforms and cultural change to enable change in violence against women and girls, sport is recognised as a platform for social change. It is being used as vehicle for positive change.

We celebrate IWD 2022 recognising the IOC – UN Women Partnership where we the Olympic Movement take leadership in the UN Women Sports for Generation Equality Initiative.  

With the theme, ‘Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow’, we are urged to celebrate women-led initiatives toward sustainability, especially through climate action.

This falls in line with our all-women ONOC Working Group moving to establish our ONOC Sustainability Commission to be formalised at our Annual General Assembly in May. This will consolidate our legacy of work around environmental protection, marine protection, and lead us toward a consolidated 17-NOC effort toward climate action using athletes at the forefront.  

While ONOC celebrated its Gender Scorecard with impressive results last year, and the TOKYO 2020 and BEIJING 2022 Games have returned gender data confirming significant change, there is considerable work to be done.

We are well aware of the need to work with our National Olympic Committees and their National Federations to achieve the gender requirements expected of us for compliance by the IOC. This is a challenge we accept.

We are also grateful for our partnerships and the work of our Commissions toward this end – in particular, Karo Lelai, Chair of the Athletes’ Commission, who has ably guided athletes from ONOC to ANOC level, and now Liaison within the IOC Athletes Commission.  

I’m pleased to share this celebration coverage of our notable women athletes and teams from Oceania, with increasing number from the smaller Pacific Island NOCs.  

This month, we will be sharing datasets and stories where you will find out more about our Oceania women at IOC Commissions, ANOC Commissions, and our 21-year history of women from Oceania who have won the IOC Women and Sport Award.

On that note, I wish everyone a reflective and inspired IWD 2022 by noting three incredible achievements related to IOC Women and Sport – in 2001 the Overall Winner was the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC), and this feat was repeated by the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) when it won Overall in 2015.  

In 2019, the Vanuatu Volleyball Federation won the IOC Women and Sport Award for Oceania, and in 2002, none other than our Chair, Helen Brownlee won.

We are in good hands.


Dr Robin Mitchell
ONOC President