Vanuatu volleyball program wins global women’s sport award

A Vanuatu-based beach volleyball program supported by the Australian Government through the Pacific Sports Partnerships has won a global award in recognition of its contribution to transforming the lives of women.

Group of people on a stage, posing for a photo with awards.
VVF president Debbie Masauvakalo receives the IOC Women and Sports Award for Oceania at a ceremony in New York. Credit: IOC Media.

Vanuatu Volleyball Federation (VVF) received the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Women and Sports Award for Oceania for its Volley4Change program, which is delivered in partnership with Volleyball Australia. VVF president Debbie Masauvakalo travelled from Vanuatu to New York to be presented with the award at a ceremony co-hosted by UN Women last week.

Volley4Change, which was established in 2013, focuses on supporting grassroots beach volleyball in Vanuatu while contributing to community development. The program’s vision is that women, girls and people with disabilities will benefit from improved health and wellbeing through nutrition, education, increased physical activity, leadership opportunities, and inclusion in sports.

The IOC judging panel highlighted the program’s multiple achievements in addressing gender issues, increasing access to volleyball, taking a holistic approach to the health benefits of sport, and creating female sporting role models through beach volleyball.

“The Volley4Change program shines a light on social issues faced by women today and addresses these issues by engaging people of all genders and abilities to increase physical activity. It also looks at mental, spiritual and emotional aspects of health. VVF’s contribution to the acceptance of women as athletes has created role models for all.”

VVF president Debbie Masauvakalo said the award recognises the broader community impact of the Volley4Change program in Vanuatu.

“The IOC Women and Sports Award is not about what Vanuatu Volleyball Federation has achieved, but what we have done to effect change in gender equity in Vanuatu. The Volley4Change program has educated, empowered and transformed many women’s lives in Vanuatu for the better and we thank the Australian Government for funding the program through the Pacific Sports Partnerships, in partnership with Volleyball Australia and Oceania Zonal Volleyball Association.”

The IOC Women and Sports Awards are presented annually to individuals or organisations who have made remarkable contributions to the development, encouragement and reinforcement of women and girls’ participation in sport.

This is the second international award handed to volleyball sport for development programs supported by the Australian Government in recent years.

In 2017, the Colorful Girls Volleyball Circles program in Myanmar (delivered by Myanmar-based NGO Girl Determined and Netherlands-based NGO Women Win, through a partnership with Volleyball Australia) won the Beyond Sport: Sport for Equality Award. The award recognised the program’s work in creating opportunities for more than 1000 women and girls, many from conflict-affected communities, to participate in volleyball activities that incorporated lessons in leadership and self-advocacy.

Three women on a stage, posing for a photo with their awards.
VVF president Debbie Masauvakalo with fellow winners at the IOC Women and Sports Awards. Credit: IOC Media.

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