SAOC Olympic Committee head Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki Al Faisal Al Saud speaks during the first day of the virtual forum ©SAOC

The Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee (SAOC) and World Taekwondo (WT) have hosted a virtual forum focusing on gender equity and female leadership.

The two-day event reportedly attracted more than 120,000 views on the SAOC's social media channels.

Organised in cooperation with the Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation and the Saudi Taekwondo Federation, the first day of the event featured speeches from individuals including WT President Chungwon Choue, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach and Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee head Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki Al Faisal Al Saud.

In his speech Choue spoke about the development of women’s sports in Saudi Arabia, highlighting the country's female taekwondo athletes who have won nine international medals.

He also indicated that Saudi Arabia would organise the first open women’s taekwondo championship in February 2021.

During his speech Bach spoke of the IOC's drive to achieve gender equality in sport, as well as praising the conference saying it "represents evidence, leadership and a spirit of innovation to enhance the role of women in sporting societies."

Al Saud was the next speaker and talked of how he believed it was necessary "to include sports in recovery plans against the various crises that the world faces" adding that sports had shown the "diversity of benefits and contributions that could be offered to human societies."

Al Saud also highlighted sporting initiatives that had empowered female participation in the Kingdom saying that: "We now have more than 25 federations that have women’s national teams, and 30 federations have at least one woman holding the position of director on a Board of Directors.

"In addition we have registered more than 2,400 players in various federations - a more than 25 per cent increase in women’s participation in public games."

The second day of the forum featured seven sessions which started with Adwaa Al-Arifi, Board member at SAOC, doing a talk entitled "Women Leaders in Sports Organisations."

Al-Arifi spoke of how her sports journey began with small dreams of practising sports with her friends and how she went on to establish the first Saudi women's sports team in the Kingdom in 2006.

World Taekwondo President Chungwon Choue speaks during the opening day of the gender equity and female leadership forum ©SAOC
World Taekwondo President Chungwon Choue speaks during the opening day of the gender equity and female leadership forum ©SAOC

She also highlighted the benefits of Vision 2030, which she said "is paving the way for many girls to achieve their ambitions."

The second session of the day was entitled "My Experience with Taekwondo", led by IOC Athletes Commission member Miriam Pavril.

Pavril spoke of how she had practised many different sports starting at the age of six, and had been training for four hours a day when she was 15 years old, which she said helped her to become an Olympic champion in later life.

Among the other sessions was one entitled "Women in Para Taekwondo", where Lisa Gjessing, a four-times para-taekwondo world champion, spoke of her transformation from being an Olympic athlete to a Paralympic athlete.

Gjinseng said her ambition did not stop when she lost an arm to cancer in 2012, and told of how she continued her passion for sports until she achieved success.

In one of the other sessions entitled "Empowering Women in the International Taekwondo Federation", Sarah Stevenson, chair of the World Taekwondo for All Committee talked about how training, continuous development and patience, helped her become Britain's first ever Olympic taekwondo medallist, when she won bronze at the Beijing 2008 Olympics.

Reflecting on the event World Taekwondo President Choue said: "The first Gender Equity and Women Leadership Forum was a very important event for World Taekwondo, Saudi Arabian sport and the wider Olympic Movement. 

"All stakeholders in the Olympic family have a responsibility to do more when it comes to promoting gender equity and women leadership. Under the leadership of the IOC, great progress has been made however we know there is still some way to go to truly achieve gender equality.

“At World Taekwondo we are proud to be the first federation to have achieved gender equity among our athletes and international referees at the Olympic Games but we cannot be satisfied with that alone. 

"We are committed to making meaningful progress at our national events and to creating more opportunities for women to excel in leadership positions within the World Taekwondo family. We are stronger when we work together and when we draw from the perspectives and experiences of men and women."