A Legacy of Advocacy, Leadership, and Unwavering Commitment to Equity in Sport
Women in Sport Ngā Wāhine Hākinakina o Aotearoa (WISPA) prepares to bid farewell to one of its foundational leaders. Dr. Sarah Leberman, our respected Co-Chair, will be stepping down on the 26th of October 2023. Her tenure has been marked by a steadfast commitment to equity in sport and active recreation, a passion for advocacy, and a leadership style that has been pivotal to WISPA’s growth and influence.
A Professor of Leadership, Dr. Leberman’s notable career in academia and sport has been integral to WISPA’s journey. Her influence on WISPA has been transformative, championing opportunities for kōhine and wāhine at every level of sport. Recounting the early days, Sarah shares, “Poipoia te kākano, kia puāwai. (Nurture the seed and it will bloom). It’s astonishing to witness how far we have come since Julie (Paterson, Co-Founder) and I first met in 2015. From the initial meetings with our foundation members in 2016 to becoming the foremost entity appearing in online searches about women in sport in New Zealand, our growth has been phenomenal and a testament to the collective effort.”
Yet, Sarah is quick to highlight the challenges that persist. “There is still much work to do, particularly when we are seeking equity for ALL women and girls, and for me, this is one of our biggest challenges. Intersectional considerations need to be front and centre of everything we do, otherwise, we risk privileging those who already have access to opportunities and therefore outcomes.” She’s also keen to acknowledge the collective spirit that defines WISPA, praising the bi-cultural approach and the strides made towards being a Te Tiriti inspired organisation.
Sarah’s reflections are imbued with wisdom. One she cites is, “Tini whetū ki te rangi, he iti te pōkēao ka ngaro,” which translates to “A small cloud overhead will obscure the stars i.e. a small group can overcome the multitude, can overcome a myriad of difficulties,” highlighting the power of collective effort and unity in the journey of WISPA.
Embracing New Leadership
As one chapter closes, another begins. WISPA is thrilled to announce Susan Sawbridge as new Chair and Erin Roxburgh as Deputy Chair. Both women bring a wealth of experience and a shared vision for the future of WISPA. Susan’s sentiments echo this optimism, “I’m chuffed to be working with Erin to take WISPA into this next stage, as well as the rest of the board, the rōpū, and a very keen team. Knowing we have the support of Julie, Sarah, and the other foundation members is also really important; that means the vast knowledge behind us can take us forward.”
Sarah’s gratitude towards Julie Paterson is evident. “A particular thank you goes to Julie, without whom none of this would have happened. We make a great team, and I have loved working alongside you over the past 7 years, and treasuring the friendship we have developed”.
While she may be stepping down from her official role, Sarah’s association with WISPA is far from over. She remains committed to various initiatives and will always be a part of the WISPA whānau.
In closing, WISPA wishes to express its profound gratitude to Dr. Sarah Leberman. Her legacy is a beacon for all, Sarah would like to remind us of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words:
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”