06 Mar 2022

Table tennis has long been used as a tool to raise awareness for gender balance and female empowerment. The ITTF continues its efforts to close the gender gap in table tennis participation on and off the field of play. To advance and strengthen women’s participation in our sport, ITTF High Performance & Development continues with the highly successful Member Association (MA) Assistance Program for Women’s Development in Table Tennis, “My Gender. My Strength.” (MGMS).

The first edition of the program, which ran in Asia and Latin America, received overbearingly positive feedback and triggered a high level of interest from an increased number of Member Associations across the world. In 2021, the second edition of the program ran across four continents, within the framework of the 2021 Africa, Americas, Asia and Oceania Development Programs.

To encourage MAs to present quality projects with a lasting legacy and significant impact on women’s development in table tennis, the financial support increased, including a bonus for the selected MAs.

In total, 35 Member Associations applied to be part of the program, with the highest number of applications received from the Americas, as 14 MAs endeavored to spotlight their national projects. In the end, Brazil, Colombia, Paraguay, Costa Rica, Haiti and Guyana of the Americas prevailed with their applications.

With this edition being the first time MGMS was made available to African MAs, interest in this program was very high, with a total of 12 MAs applying to be part of it. Botswana, Central Africa, Senegal, Uganda and Ghana were ultimately successful with their projects.

Within Asia, the selected associations were Sri Lanka, Lebanon, Iran, Tajikistan and Nepal, and within Oceania, Australia, New Zealand and Palau won out.

In the case of the Americas, the priority was given to those Member Associations who had not been part of the program the previous year. In order to support the legacy and keep up the momentum generated by the 2019 MGMS projects, those associations that had previously benefited from the program and had applied again were granted the 2021 MGMS Follow-Up Project Grant for an additional women’s development activity.

“We were very glad to see the positive response and interest of Member Associations in the program, but also the positive impact and legacy on women table tennis development that the program had left in 2019. The aim of the program is not only to implement the standalone project, but to make a positive difference through the project in the long run. It is truly rewarding to know that it has triggered significant actions within MAs, such as women having been appointed for decision making positions, female former players becoming full-time coaches, the creation of networks for women in table tennis. Similarly, when it comes to its second edition, we noticed a high level of commitment and willingness to make an effort towards women’s table tennis development that were shown through applications and engagement during the projects’ implementation which is a very promising outlook for strengthening and advancing women’s participation in table tennis in general.” said Katarzyna Kubas, ITTF Head of Development.

With this program, the ITTF encourages MAs to identify their needs in the field of women’s development, and meet them with their proposed project. This resulted in a variety of activities, ranging from schools’ projects, seminars for coaches, managers, and administrators to training camps, tournaments, and workshops, totalling over 1200 participants across 4 continents during its second year.

Taking into account that the area which still requires a lot of attention is leadership, each project must contain a leadership component to ensure that girls and women have have well-designed career pathways in all their roles, from players to leaders. One of projects that paid particular attention to this area was that of the Table Tennis Federation of Islamic Republic of Iran, which was led by Ms. Fatimah Keyvani, Co-Chair of the Gender Equality Committee of the Asian Table tennis Union (ATTU). The project made available management courses for women administrators and managers.

Ms. Keyvani said: “Holding courses like this usually helps to increase managers’ self-esteem and other managerial factors. Especially to increase the number of capable female managers who are lacking in policy-making and decision-making. Also, it is recommended that these courses be excellent for both genders.”

One of the requirements of the ITTF „My Gender. My Strength.” program is that MAs should nominate a responsible person (National Coordinator) for the coordination and implementation of the project, thus further contributing and supporting the MA in developing women’s table tennis locally. In Oceania, the program was well received.

 “TTNZ (Table Tennis New Zealand) is passionate about growing female participation across all areas of our sport and welcomed the opportunity by ITTF’s My Gender My Strength to test a girls’ pilot program in three regions across New Zealand.” said Christine Young, the TTNZ Operations Manager and National Coordinator of the TTNZ Project.

Maree Nilsen, coach deliverer said “As a coach I have enjoyed seeing the girls participate, watching their skills develop and confidence grow. They made friends, encouraged each other and embraced teamwork. Most importantly they had fun and are keen to continue playing. The programme was well structured and easy to follow.”

One of the Member Associations in the Americas that successfully held a national project for the first time was the Brazilian Table Tennis Federation (CBTM), coordinated by Taisa Belli.

“We had all support of the MGMS program during all phases of the event, that helped us to promote it. Registrations reached 127 participants (87% women) from 16 states in a continental country as is Brazil. Our training camp comprised a set of actions (i.e. Training with Experts, Lectures, Workshops). The main impact  the MGMS program had on women’s development in our MA was raising awareness of the importance of gender balance and the development of a network among female athletes (including para table tennis), coaches, match officials, administrators, managers, and Physical Education teachers and students.” Taisa Belli

The Program was very welcomed also in Uganda and appreciated by MA President, Robert Jjagwe.

“The “My Gender My Strength” (MGMS) ITTF program helped Uganda enroll 123 new young girls into the Table Tennis sport in a space of just 5 weeks from 25th October to 27th November 2021. Uganda has always had a smaller number of female players compared to the males. The MGMS program is therefore extremely important in bridging this gap and Uganda was very happy to use it to demonstrate a massive and impressive enrolment of so many new female players within a very short time. Due to the program’s enormous success, the UTTA AGM sitting on 06th February 2022 approved the 2022 Calendar that also included an exclusive only Girls’ MGMS Schools League to include all schools that participated in the 2021 MGMS program in Uganda”. Robert Jjagwe

Under the 2021 ITTF “My Gender. My Strength.” Program, 21 Member Associations received financial support and guidance to implement national projects towards women’s table tennis development, showing up good practices to our table tennis community. On 8 March 2022 at 12pm CET, four Member Associations from four different continents will have the opportunity to present their projects during a webinar in honor of International Women’s Day 2022, after a round table discussion on how to #BreakTheBias. To register, please click here.

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