The Fiji sport administrators were dazed when Fiji women won more than half of the seat, including the president in the election to the Fiji Weightlifting Board. The female outgoing President Atma Maharaj has now been replaced by a woman, Della Shaw-Elder.
Ursula Papandrea, who became the first woman to lead the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) when she was appointed Acting President this year, wrote to Shaw-Elder to congratulate her.
Papandrea, who has often spoken of the need for more women in positions of influence in weightlifting, said the Fiji election results were “great news” and wrote: “Congratulations to the Fiji Federation for exceeding International Olympic Committee recommendations and leading the sport in gender equality.”
Throughout Maharaj’s second spell as President, since 2013, WF has “always had a very strong representation of female Executive Board members,” Shaw-Elder told insidethegames.
“It is not by design but we have a very good recruitment process,” she said.
Earlier, Shaw-Elder, speaking at A Women in Sports workshop in Suva, encouraged women to come forward and take up leadership roles in sporting organisations and said: “Women provide a different outlook, perspective and experiences that can create a much better, well-balanced organisation.”
“Women need to be more forthcoming, bolder, and trust in their abilities.
“They need to have a go-getter attitude and reach for the skies.
“I’d like to see more women coaches and technical officials in Fiji and the region.”
One of Shaw-Elder’s aims is to widen the recruitment process into the sport, a process that is already underway.
Fiji comprises 14 provinces and more than 300 islands, but in the past, weightlifting has been dominated by two clubs, from the capital, Suva, and most notably from Levuka, the island that provided the national team with most of its lifters for many years.
“We have grown our grassroots from the two clubs we have traditionally had and we now have five clubs,” said Shaw-Elder, adding that there were plans to create two more.
“In addition we have remobilised the sport in Levuka with the setting-up of a new satellite centre.
“In 2020-21 this will lead to a new club for Levuka.
“Our goal is to build on our successes and strengthen our grassroots programmes and local competitions.”