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Successful Conference in Yemen

ITTF at Asian Conference on Women and Sport

ITTF Project Manager, Lilamani DE SOYSA represented the International Table Tennis Federation at the Third Asian Conference on Women and Sport held in Sanna’a, Yemen on Wednesday 11th and Thursday 12th May 2005.

The conference was entitled Empowering Women to Benefit from Sport and Physical Education` with Lila speaking on the subject of the `Importance of Leadership, Training and Promotion of Women’s Competence Programmes in Sports’.

Lila outlined the challenges that the International Table Tennis Federation had faced in recent years in their efforts to encourage a higher female participation in table tennis and by showing the film `Breaking Down Barriers in Afghanistan’ was able to highlight the achievements that had been effected.

Well Represented
Table tennis was well represented at the conference with Faouzia DAYOUB (Syrian table tennis coach), Naela NASR (former Arab table tennis champion from Yemen), Tatyana TCHERESTOVA (national table tennis player and coach from Jordan) and Visam ALI (General Secretary of the Maldives Table Tennis Association) all in attendance in Sana’a.

“All the speakers without exception stressed the need for promoting and empowering women to benefit from sport and physical education”, explained Lila. “All highlighted the existing barriers and challenges that still need to be overcame.” Delegates from twenty-seven Asian countries were present and the conference concluded with a declaration entitled: “Recognising and supporting the objectives declared by the United Nations through the International Year for Sport and Physical Education 2005 for a better understanding of the values of sport and physical education for human development programmes, with special emphasis on the needs of girls and women.”

The support for the conference by the President of the Yemem, His Royal Highness Ali Abdellah SALEH was invaluable and delegates were most certainly grateful for his patronage alongside the efforts of the Yemen National Olympic Committee and the Yemen Women in Sports Group for making the 3rd Asian Conference for Women and Sport such a resounding success.

International Size Venue
Following the conference Lila remained in Yemen as a guest of the national association for several days and found that the progress is most certainly being made in furthering the sport of table tennis.

The Yemen has a history of success in Arab table tennis competitions but the success has been minimal in recent years; however, it would seem that the dip in fortunes is soon to end. A new table tennis hall in being constructed within the National Olympic Committee complex in Sana’a being able to hold fourteen table tennis tables and seat seven hundred spectators for international events with all the necessary facilities for administration and the media being available. The national association, under the leadership of Nabil AL-FAKIH, is well organised; has its office situated in the heart of Sana’a, is in the process of creating its own website and has hired a Korean, a Chinese and a female Japanese coach to commence work shortly.

The Yemen National Table Tennis Association has approximately one thousand one hundred registered players and holds some twenty-four tournaments a year but cultural and social barriers still prevent women and girls from participating fully in sport. “There is a need for changing attitudes and beliefs and promoting sport as essential for improving health and the well being not only for females but also for males”, explained Lila.

However, the Yemen Olympic Committee is making positive steps to promote women at all levels in sport and is clearly supporting one of the goals proposed by the conference in Sana’a that all Asian governments and National Olympic Committees should formulate a national women and sport policy by the start of the Asian Games in Doha in 2006 and to include in the programme a special chapter on women with disabilities.

A country that is immensely proud of its history and traditions is undoubtedly making strides in both table tennis and in the promotion of female participation in sport; they are to be congratulated on their efforts and they are also to be congratulated on the warm welcome they afforded to their guests in May 2005.

“Thank you to the beautiful people of the Yemen”, concluded Lilamani de Soysa. “You made my stay unforgettable.”

A report detailing the major proposals made at the 3rd Asian Conference on Women & Sport plus the proposals for furthering female participation in sport as detailed by the Yemen Olympic Committee will appear in Table Tennis Illustrated No.56 (July-August 2005).

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