International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Sir Phillip Craven thinks future Paralympic Games need more women.
After speaking at the 6th International Working Group (IWG) World Conference on Women and Sport in Helsinki, he made it clear the IPC is targeting gender parity at future Paralympic Games.
By around 2016, roughly 1,650 women — about 38% of all athletes — will compete in the Rio Paralympic Games, according to Craven. That’s more than double the 790 who took part in Atlanta in 1996. Women will also compete in 43% of all medal events, a 12% rise from London 2012.
Craven highlighted the likes of Netherlands blade runner Marlou van Rhijn and Iranian Paralympic champion archer Zarah Nemati, along with female coaches like Jenny Archer — the coach of six-time Paralympic wheelchair racing champion David Weir — who are inspiring more women to take up sport.
But Craven thinks those numbers should be higher. He would like to see a bigger increase — though it will take time.
“The growth has to be organic and has to come from the grassroots. It is no use creating more medal events for women if there are not enough athletes to compete at the highest level,” Craven says. “Increasing participation is not easy, especially in countries where there are cultural barriers to women practicing sport. Role models are essential and I am delighted to see so many female Paralympians coming through who can inspire the next generation.”
Craven would also like to see more women get elected to the IPC Governing Board. Last year, just four of the 27 candidates seeking election were women.
He thinks the Agitos Foundation’s WoMentoring project could help increase the figure to 30% in the near future. It involved 32 women from 20 IPC member organizations who help mentees gain the tools to develop in sport.
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