By Raevenn BREEN
Tennis Fiji has made it their mission to promote gender equality in Fiji in order to promote fair and equal opportunities for both men and women.
One of the ways which they're doing this is by visiting schools and educating children about gender equality and its impact on the sport.
“[We] go to schools and communities trying to raise awareness [about] gender equality, inclusion, good nutrition and respect through tennis,” says Tennis Fiji’s Development Officer, Sereima Lalavanua (Lala).
“[We aim] to make them understand that tennis is for everyone regardless of their age, gender and ability. It has been a positive outcome from the time I started to date.
“There is more room for improvement but I’m glad that we’ve taken that initiative to start”.
Photo: Lala, with fellow development officer Max, at a community outreach program.
Tennis Fiji has visited schools such as Nadi International School, Lautoka Special School and has recently run a semester-long program at Nadi Sangam School, which culminated in school-wide competition, as part of the program. Besides schools, the sporting body is also involved in community development with the Housing Assistance Relief Trust (HART), which is a housing project based in Lautoka that supports single-parent families and families in need of short- and long-term accommodation.
“The HART housing project in Lautoka is a community of people which consists of mostly single mothers and low-income earners, so we take tennis right to their doorstep.
“Some of the activities we give the kids are based on health and nutrition - we divide them up into groups and educate them about different food groups and we let them play mini-matches and complete activities against each other. I’m quite lucky to be a part of this movement”.
Photo: Lala delivering food and nutrition lessons alongside a tennis program.
Lala’s role at Tennis Fiji has also opened a range of diverse opportunities for her. Over the past few years she has travelled to Vanuatu, Japan and Australia alongside junior tennis teams representing Fiji. In March 2020, Lala participated in the Global Victoria Women’s Business Summit in Melbourne where she shared the gender inclusion work that she has been working on with Tennis Fiji and, most recently, she participated in the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) webinar for National Federations on their Advantage All strategy. The ITF's Advantage All strategy aims to develop and maintain tennis as an equal opportunity sport for everyone. Tennis Fiji is currently working to create an organizational gender inclusion strategy and plan, using the methods and approaches set out by the ITF.
Photo: Lala (far right) with other members of the tennis community in a photo for International Women's Day, March 2020.