In an exciting development for women and girls in sport and physical activity, Women in Sport Aotearoa (WISPA) welcomes Harbour Sport and WORD to our nationwide network, Hine Manawa Rau.
Both organisations are dedicated to supporting and advocating for women and girls in sports. Hine Manawa Rau aims to address the unique challenges women and girls face in sports, such as access, participation, representation, and cultural responsiveness.
Acting CEO Nicky van den Bos said, “We are excited to have Harbour Sport and WORD on board, and through the network, we will leverage their combined expertise and resources to make a more significant impact and extend their reach to communities across New Zealand.”
Harbour Sport has been a prominent organisation for over 30 years, evolving with the support of dedicated individuals. Recognising the existing disparities women face in the sports sector, Harbour Sport embarked on a journey to address these challenges intentionally. They initiated a women and girls strategy, encouraging open dialogue and collaboration to shape their commitment to empowering women in the region.
One of the critical challenges identified by Harbour Sport is the gender pay gap, which stands at 15% in the play, active recreation, and sport sector, as reported by Sport NZ. To address this, Harbour Sport ensures pay equity within their organisation, where female employees constitute 62% of the total workforce. Furthermore, women hold 50% of the governing board positions, demonstrating their commitment to gender diversity and representation.
Creating inclusive and safe spaces for women and girls to participate in physical activity is another crucial focus for Harbour Sport. Their targeted population teams, Aktiv Asian and Sports Pasifik, have developed a programme called “Equip’d.” This initiative caters explicitly to Asian and Pacific girls between 11 and 18. By employing culturally appropriate methods, such as incorporating traditional Pacific Island movements and dance forms, Harbour Sport aims to provide an environment that celebrates diverse cultures and encourages active engagement.
Harbour Sport offers various programmes and initiatives to promote physical activity among women and girls. The “Equip’d” programme, delivered in five schools by Aktiv Asian and Sports Pasifik teams, has achieved remarkable success. Five years ago, the programme helped mentor a girl struggling with self-harm and challenging circumstances at home. Today, she is pursuing a qualification in Youth Work, serving as the youth representative and secretary on the board of the North Harbour Pasifika Hauora Collective. She plans to establish youth initiatives to support others facing similar struggles.
The Wellington-based organisation, WORD (World Off-road Riding Department), is making a significant impact in the lives of young women and girls through its empowering mountain biking programmes. With a mission to save the world one ride at a time, WORD has become the largest youth mountain bike charity in Aotearoa, offering after-school programs, holiday camps, and events focused on building confidence, developing friendships, and instilling a lifelong love for mountain biking.
Recognising the barriers young women and girls face in physical activity, WORD has taken a proactive approach to address these challenges. The organisation prioritises equity, diversity, and youth and has been working to bridge the gap in mountain biking for girls and young women since its inception in 2013.
Creating inclusive and safe spaces for women and girls to participate in physical activity is a top priority for WORD. The organisation fosters a sense of belonging and community for young people and their whanau. By emphasising fun, friendships, and participation over competition, WORD creates an environment where young women and girls feel welcome and supported. They offer various activities catering to different interests and skill levels and use gamification and team-building games to encourage collaboration and connection.
Inclusivity is further promoted through inclusive language and representation, co-designing programmes with young people, and empowering youth to practice leadership skills on and off the trails. The WORD Youth Leadership Pathway, also known as the Assistant Instructor programme, allows young people aged 14-17 to develop their leadership skills in the mountain bike world. The programme ensures equal representation for young women and supports them in becoming role models for younger riders.
During their involvement in the Sport NZ Young Women and Girls Activation Fund from 2020-2022, the organisation delivered the ‘Dirt is Good’ initiative, which successfully increased female participation in mountain biking. The programmes community-centric approach, prioritising enjoyment, and providing strong female role models led to significant growth in girls’ involvement in their term programmes and holiday camps. There has also been an increase in female instructors, with some participants progressing to become instructors themselves.
Individuals and communities interested in supporting WORD and Harbour Sport’s work with women and girls can reach out to: