It’s clear the future of women and girls in sport is in safe hands with a younger guard underlining their commitment to the kaupapa (cause) of the 8th IWG World Conference on Women & Sport and continuing their drive for change.
The conference wrapped up today in Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland, with the official handover to the 2026 hosts, the United Kingdom. Included in the ceremony was the passing over of the mauri (life force) stone – Te Hā o Hine (female essence) that has been blessed by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei and gifted by the IWG Aotearoa, New Zealand Secretariat. Now is the time for the IWG UK to carry forward the kaupapa.
Fittingly it was leading light, Counties Manukau Rugby Football Union director Arizona Leger who delivered the final keynote speech of the conference, telling a very attentive audience that the young are here and already driving change.
“We are the people our ancestors have been waiting for,” she said. And she challenged all to enable young people to drive the change. “Talk is cheap.”
She received a powerful haka tautoko from the auditorium that left many in tears.
Over the past four days, 1200 participants and a further 500 online have been inspired and sometimes challenged by more than 220 sessions delivered by nearly 500 international presenters both in person and virtually.
The conference drilled down into five themes – leadership, active lives, visibility and voice, social change and high performance – through seven lenses – indigeneity, technology, data and innovation, health and wellbeing, systems, resources and investment, environmental sustainability, human rights and integrity.
At the end, 11 young women took to the stage to deliver a call to action developed through the conference based on those themes.
A key component of the conference has been indigeneity woven through nearly everything, including an offsite indigenous-specific day hosted by Ngāti Whātua Ōrakei and attended by Indigenous and First Nations representatives.
Outgoing Secretary General, Chief Executive of WISPA (Women in Sport Aotearoa, Ngā Wāhine Hākinakina o Aotearoa), Rachel Froggatt said she had always believed in her team’s ambition to deliver to collectively around 1700 people, but being in a pandemic, in the middle of a cost of living crisis and a war, it would be a real ask.
“It says an enormous amount of where the women in sport movement has grown to, and the importance sport and recreational organisations are placing on getting it right,” she said.
“I am incredibly proud of the leadership position Aotearoa, New Zealand has taken on the global gender equality in sport debate.”
Ms Froggatt hoped the “knowledge bomb” delivered by the many eloquent, passionate and expert speakers will motivate people to do more in this space.
She thanked the participants for their openness to accept change and actively design plans to be actioned when they return home.
“There has been quite extraordinary engagement between participants and the programme that took place.”
Ms Froggatt was thrilled by the ambition and commitment of the incoming secretariat team who would only build on what had been created in Aotearoa, New Zealand.
“This has been a massive task for my tiny team of six in a country geographically distant from the vast majority of sports leaders. We relied a lot on the extraordinary generosity of hundreds of volunteers around the world, and I can’t thank them enough,” said Ms Froggatt.