Maldives Olympic Committee to increase women’s participation in sports

The Maldives Olympic Committee (MOC) has decided to step up women’s participation in international sports by introducing guidelines to encourage sports associations to support female athletes and officials.

The MOC has informed all national sports associations that, while funds will be released based on their performance and training, the committee will now give priority to women.

The committee will set a target of 33 percent of games contingents to be women,  alongside a requirement that half of sports officials be female.

“We have noticed that when when women officials participate in international games, they are very involved in it afterwards. But there are very few officials currently, we want to encourage them,” said Secretary General of the committee Ahmed Marzooq.

At least one official for women’s individual sports and either the Chef De Mission or the Deputy Chef De Mission must also be a woman.

“Very few women’s sports have the opportunity to represent Maldives at international level. We want to give them equal opportunities,” said Marzook.

For the upcoming Asia Games – to be held in Incheon, South Korea from September 19 til October 4, 2014 – the committee will spend MVR1.89million on teams, based on this new policy.

With nearly two hundred members, the Asia Games contingent will be the biggest that has ever represented the Maldives at an international sports event.

The Commonwealth Games 2014 – to be held in Glasgow from July 23 to August 3 – will also be funded under these policies. While there, the Maldives committee is also planning for its athletes to join the Glasgow Muslim community in marking a women’s sports.

“In awarding a training scholarship we ensure there are at least two women for each sport, we want equal opportunities in the area as well,” Marzook added.

“We want people to know that even after retiring as an athlete, there are opportunities for women in coaching, as managers, referees, doctors.”

International women’s sports in Maldives

As a traditionally moderate Muslim nation, women’s participation in sports haven’t been restricted by law, or widely discouraged in the Maldives.

The 2012 Olympics marked the first time that countries like Brunei, Qatar and, Saudi Arabia sent female athletes, while other Muslim majority countries have tended to keep women’s participation to a minimal level.

Starting with just 2.2 percent in 1900, nearly 45 percent of athletes at the 2012 Olympic games were women. Since then, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has also set goals such as a 20 percent female representation criteria for the executive boards of National Olympic Committees.

By 1992 there was a demand for the IOC to take more strict action against countries that banned female athletes from their teams after 34 of 169 competing countries had no female participants.

Barcelona was the Maldives’ second Olympic Games, marking the beginning of Maldivian women’s participation in the games. In the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, the Maldives’ flag bearer was a teenage girl, Aminath Rouya Hussain.

According to the MOC, between 2010 and 2012 the Maldives participated in eleven international games, with a 42 percent female participation rate.

The current Minister of Youth & Sports Mohamed Maleeh Jamal said the government considers providing equal opportunities for women in sports to be a priority.

“We will focus on women’s sports in establishing a number of sports arenas around the country. We will include Bashi (a local sport played mainly by women) courts in these places and we will include aerobics centers too. Jogging tracks will also be created for women,” he said.

Opportunities for women athletes

In 2010 a women’s basketball team represented the Maldives for the first time internationally, the very next year bringing home a silver medal from the 3-on-3 basketball event at the South Asian Beach Games.

Shizna Rasheed – a member of that historic team – feels that there is a great future for women’s basketball in Maldives.

“It was a great achievement for Maldives, especially considering we didn’t get to practice much.”

Still in her twenties, Shizna started playing basket ball thirteen years ago is now volunteering as a member of the recently established women’s committee within the MOC. She was also the women’s basketball team’s assistant coach at the 2010 Asia Games.

Shizna said that, with the right opportunities, there is a future for women’s basketball in the Maldives and that there are also plans to introduce women’s handball at a national level.

“With increasing funds more opportunities are opening now. There should be equal opportunities for women, and I think these new measures [introduced by the committee] are very encouraging. It will provide more opportunities for women athletes,” she said.

Aishath Nazima, a volleyball player with twenty years of experience, expressed similar sentiments about the measures:

“As it is, only a few women’s sports have that opportunity [to participate in international sports], it is worse for team sports. So most teams don’t practice through out the year. But this can change things. If there are games to look forward to, associations and players too will get more serious. A lot of players even quit due to lack of opportunities.”


Comment: Volley anthropology

This article originally appeared on ‘Miss L in the Maldives’. Republished with permission.

We play volley every day.

Seven days a week, for the last seven months, provided it’s not already raining, we play volley. It’s never referred to as volleyball, just ‘volley’, and it has become such a huge part of our lives that it deserves a blog post all of its own.

It was The Boy who started it. We had always known that there were people who played volley on the sandy area next to the football pitch but it had not really occurred to us to get involved, nor would it have been right to charge in and invite ourselves along. Participation for foreigners is by invitation only. And so it was, in April, that we first donned our volley clothes and ventured along.

The daily routine goes something like this: at around 4:20pm, 20-odd 20-somethings rock up at the volley court. Two teams play against one another. The winning team stays on and swaps sides, and the losing team goes off to be replaced by a fresh team of competitive individuals who want to oust the current champions from the court and stay on for more than one game.

While it brings out everyone’s competitive spirit on-court, volley is essentially a social affair, presenting a perfectly legitimate excuse for us all to ditch whatever we happened to be doing up until volley time and hang out for a glorious hour and a half.

When we’re not playing, Bella and I mostly sit on the wall and give a quiet but highly-finessed fashion commentary on everyone else’s clothing, hair styles, and chosen facial hair of the day. We have it down to a fine art.

We’re aided by our collection of nicknames, bestowed upon our volley-playing friends at a time when we had absolutely no idea what their real names were. And here they are, the Volley Crew: The Boy and Coach, Handbag Man, Ali Mansoor, The Tank, the Oomper Loomper, Red T-shirt guy, Goat Man, The Gooseberry, Daddy Longlegs, Cheeky boy, Dhonbe, Yummy Mummy and Yummy Daddy, Nappy pants, Junior Team Member, Afro Man, Yellow Shorts guy, The scrawny one, Vin Diesel, Twiggy, the Accountant and, occasionally, Captain Haddock. There are others but their names are perhaps best left unpublished!

Aside from our own private set of nicknames, volley has its own language:

Outoo = out
Bodu outoo = badly out
Charlotte, ready?! = Charlotte, are you awake and ready to hit the ball?!
Receive, receive! = Wake up team and make sure one of you returns the serve
Back! (as uttered by the Tank) = person in the middle smash the ball back across the net
Saadha-game ball = 14 points to the winning team and it’s game ball
Ethere = in
Egaara = eleven
Ehvaru = equal/all e.g. eleven all

The final three words in the volley vocabulary are easily confused, and if you’re not careful you find yourself shouting “eleven!” when trying to tell your team that the ball was in. Volley was also the forum in which we learnt to count in Dhevehi. Most of the time we play to 15 points and so for a long time our Dhivehi counting went like this: eke (1), dheyh (2), thineh (3), hathareh (4), faheh (5), hayeh (6), hatheh (7), asheh (8), nuvaeh (9), dhihayeh (10), egaara (11), baara (12), theyra (13), saadha (14), game ball, much to the amusement of everyone else.

The events that take place on court during a game, the interactions between team mates, and the stances adopted by each of the players are a social science study all of their own. Most of the time play is extremely good-natured but from time to time a team member will be roundly chastised for screwing up a shot.

Occasionally there are altercations and you can usually tell if someone’s upset The Boy because (much to the delight of Bella and I) he begins to puff up like a rhino about to charge.

Seven months of careful observation have led to at least one conclusion: humans the world over find other people’s misfortunes funny. On an almost daily basis we will be crippled with laughter as some highly improbably shot sends the ball flying in an extraordinary direction, bopping an unsuspecting person on the head as it lands. And when Maldivians find something really funny, they have to sit down. So you’ll be in the middle of a game and something ridiculous will happen and suddenly everyone is creased up and sitting cross-legged in the sand.

It is widely accepted I am crap at volley and generally not to be trusted with the ball. Despite my indignation their beliefs are not unfounded. I often find myself paraylsed, rooted to the spot, unable to move into the path of the oncoming ball nor out of it. In a moment of bravery I will stick my arms nervously in the air to receive the ball, only to second guess myself at the last minute, leaving my team mates to dive for the ball and avert another lost point.

I am also unfortunate. One of my baby fingers is now a completely different shape to the other as a result of two ill-judge catches, which mashes first one joint and then the other. And until recently there’s been something wrong with the angle of my scoop shot, causing me to send the ball flying straight into my own face, instead of back across the net.

On more than one occasion I’ve ended up in a heap on the ground after tripping over the lines.

Then there are the injuries sustained as a result of poor positioning. The Boy has a killer spike. It’s his party piece. The setter sets the ball; the Boy takes a run and jump, and comes down on the ball, wham! Sending it flying across the other side of the court. It’s terrifying for anyone to be on the receiving end but it just so happens that my head is in the direct trajectory of the ball if I stand five paces back from the net.

The first time it happened there was outrage that he could have slammed the ball straight into my forehead. For my part, I was stunned – literally! The second time it happened, there was nothing to do but laugh. The chances of the unfortunate incident occurring again were so remote that it was hilarious. And so, it was to The Boy’s horror and my incredulity that just that other day I got in the way of yet another killer smash and sustained the sprained wrist that delayed the posting of this very blog.

I could go on, but I have to stop. I can only hope that I have done some justice to this dearly beloved aspect of our island life.

Charlotte Lamptey is a volunteer teacher working on Ihavandhoo in Haa Arif Atoll.

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