The Canadian Paralympic Committee was recognised for their gender equality work. EVA BLUE / CPC

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has announced the three outstanding winners of the 2024 International Women's Day Recognition Awards on 8 March, the International Women's Day. 

Karen O'Neill from the Americas Paralympic Committee (Leadership), Noor Husain from NPC Bahrain (Emerging Leadership) and the Canadian Paralympic Committee (IPC Member) have each received an International Women's Day 2024 Recognition Award, as reported in a detailed and interesting IPC article.

The awards, which have been run by the IPC since 2013, primarily recognise women in the Paralympic Movement who inspire and emulate the Paralympic ideals and serve as positive role models. The winners were selected by members of the IPC Governing Board following nominations from IPC member organisations. 

Andrew Parsons, IPC President said: "The IPC International Women's Day Recognition Awards are clear evidence that a generation of strong female leaders is having a huge impact on making the Paralympic Movement more inclusive and creating new opportunities for female athletes, coaches, and officials to excel." 

"Congratulations to our winners: Karen O'Neill for developing and implementing the groundbreaking Women in Sports project which has empowered women across the Americas to become leaders in Para sport; Noor Hosain for her fantastic contribution to the growth of NPC Bahrain in promoting Para sport; and the Canadian Paralympic Committee for their commitment to gender equality at every level of their organisation," he explained. 

Andrew Parsons, at the closing ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics. GETTY IMAGES
Andrew Parsons, at the closing ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics. GETTY IMAGES

"The IPC Senior Executive Team is fully gender balanced, while over 40 per cent of the IPC Governing Board is female. At the 2023 IPC General Assembly, our members voted into the IPC Constitution that at least one of the two Vice President positions for all future IPC Governing Boards should be female," he pointed out. 

"Progress is also being made on the field of play. The Paris 2024 Paralympic Games will feature a record number of women's medal events and female athletes competing. There will be at least 1,859 places for female athletes, almost double the 990 women who competed at the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games. There is still a long way to go to achieve full parity, but I am confident that we will get there," concluded the IPC President. 

Leadership. Winner - Karen O'Neill, Americas Paralympic Committee. 

This category recognises sustained and consistent leadership over a period of time, advocacy, overall contribution, and impact in promoting and supporting women in sport. 

Karen O'Neill has demonstrated outstanding leadership in transforming the Para sport environment and has practical experience in promoting women's leadership in sport. For much of the past decade, she has successfully led the ground-breaking Women in Sport (WIS) project for the Americas region. The initiative aims to empower women and encourage their active participation in sport, enabling them to develop strong leadership skills.

Karen O'Neill won the Leadership Award. BRITTANY GAWLEY / CPC
Karen O'Neill won the Leadership Award. BRITTANY GAWLEY / CPC 

To help build the next generation of female leaders, more than 40 women, including representatives from National Paralympic Committees (NPCs), athletes, and individuals involved in sport, participated in the programme, which focused on training women in leadership, project development, and empowerment. 

Virtual and face-to-face sessions took place over several years. Thanks to grant funding, in-person training sessions were held in Canada and also in Lima during the 2019 Parapan American Games. In the subsequent years participants have continued to receive guidance and materials from dedicated mentors throughout the programme. 

The WIS project has not only empowered women, but has also brought about positive change towards a more inclusive and diverse sporting community. A record number of women in the region have been elected and are running for leadership positions at the national, regional, and international levels.

Emerging Leadership. Winner - Noor Husain, Bahrain. 

This category recognises early career leadership, advocacy, overall contribution and impact in promoting and supporting women in sport. Noor Husain started working at NPC Bahrain in 2019 and her contributions across multiple skill sets have had a significant impact on the growth of the NPC in the region and across the Paralympic Movement. 

Noor is adept at managing major events and protocol. During the 2021 Asian Youth Para Games, she managed the accommodation for 1,500 people in eight hotels and supported 200 delegates in nine sports. She also secured major sponsors for the Games. She did similar work for the 2022 West Asia Para Games, managing the accommodation of 600 people.

Noor Husain (L) is the first woman in Bahrain to manage Para sports tournaments. IPC
Noor Husain (L) is the first woman in Bahrain to manage Para sports tournaments. IPC

With a commitment to promoting and developing Para sports across the region, Noor became the first woman in Bahrain to manage Para sports tournaments. She oversaw the World Cup Boccia 2022 and Bahrain Para Badminton International 2023 events. She then played a pivotal role in hosting the IPC General Assembly and Conference in Bahrain in September 2023. Over 500 delegates, representatives, IPC staff and employees were supported by Noor. 

She has also proven to be a very capable administrator. Demonstrating her flexibility and commitment to different roles, she has chaired committees for the Bahrain Para Badminton International 2022 and Goalball 2022. Her journey demonstrates her strong commitment and success at NPC Bahrain, making a lasting impact on the organisation.

IPC Member. Winner - Canadian Paralympic Committee

This category recognises the leadership, impact and effective change initiated by a Member (NPC, International Federation, International Organisation of Sport for the Disabled, Regional Organisation, World Para Sport) that promotes and supports equality and inclusion of women in sport. 

The Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC) champions women in leadership, with a 50/50 gender balance on its Executive Leadership Team and Board of Directors. Their Senior Leadership Team is 60 per cent female representation, and their Athlete's Council Chair, Erica Gavel, is a testament to their commitment at every level. 

Through partnerships with the Paralympic Committee of the Americas, they have a significant global impact. Initiatives such as the "Women in the Americas" workshop, led by CEO Karen O'Neill and Chelsey Gotell's involvement on the IPC Governing Board underline their role and long-term commitment to promoting female leadership internationally. 

The CPC actively promotes female athletes and is committed to equal representation in its online and offline content. This commitment to visibility is coupled with the achievement of a 50/50 gender balance on most sports teams, a notable achievement in the Canadian sports landscape. 

CPC's approach to gender equality integrates strong leadership, international collaboration, active promotion of female athletes, and support for emerging leaders. This holistic strategy not only demonstrates their commitment to parity, but also places them at the forefront of the Paralympic Movement.

Nigeria's Patience Aghimile Igbiti won the 2023 Leadership Award. IPC
Nigeria's Patience Aghimile Igbiti won the 2023 Leadership Award. IPC

Previous winners:   

2023 - Patience Igbiti (Leadership), Vladyslava Kravchenko (Emerging Leadership), NPC Malawi (National Paralympic Committee) and World Para Ice Hockey (International Federation).  

2022 - Oripa Mubika (Leadership), Yip Pin Xiu (Emerging Leadership) and Paralympics New Zealand (National Paralympic Committee/International Federation).  

2021 - Kate Caithness (Leadership), Zahra Nemati (Emerging Leadership) and World Para Powerlifting (NPC/IF).  

2020 - Paulina Malinowska-Kowalczyk (Builder), Maha Bargouthi (Next Generation) and Paralympics Australia (NPC/IF).  

2019 - Deepa Malik.  

2018 - Dr. Hayat Khattab.  

2017 - Dr. Cheri Blauwet.  

2016 - Carla Qualtrough.  

2015 - Chantal Petitclerc.  

2014  - Rima Batalova.  

2013 - Sylvana Mestre.