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Celebrating women’s sports on International Women’s Day

Posted: 25 March 2020

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On 8 March, International Women’s Day, 30 Australia Awards scholars from South and West Asia attended the ICC Women’s Twenty20 Cricket World Cup final at the spectacular Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Aligning with International Women’s Day’s mission to create a gender equal world, the match formed part of a global effort to celebrate women athletes and inspire gender equality in pay, sponsorship and visibility in the field of sports. In a record-breaking attendance for a women’s cricket match—a momentous occasion for women’s equality—more than 86,000 fans gathered in Melbourne to witness as Australia downed first-time finalists India by 85 runs.

As a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, International Women’s Day is a focal point in the movement for women’s rights—and celebrating women’s visibility in the field of sport was one way people around the world came together to mark the day. With increased media attention, greater sponsorship, mainstream television coverage and big wins for women’s teams, there’s been massive progress made towards creating an equal platform for female sporting champions.

In the spirit of celebration, global pop superstar Katy Perry provided an exclusive Australian performance at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on the day of the final match, an appearance that reinforced the popularity of women’s sporting events. Ten teams contested a total of 23 matches in six host cities in Australia this year.

Australia Awards scholars South and West Asia at the ICC Women's Twenty20 Cricket World Cup final in Melbourne

Australia Awards scholars from South and West Asia outside the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the ICC Women’s Twenty20 Cricket World Cup final

The majority of the Australia Awards scholars who attended the game were women, and some were accompanied by their families. Many had never previously attended a sporting event, let alone a women’s one, in their home countries or even Australia.

“It was a great opportunity for us to be a part of this historical event,” said Simantika Roy, a scholar from India. “Especially as a woman, I feel there could have been no better way to celebrate International Women’s Day.”

In Simantika’s opinion, “for a long time, woman athletes did not get the attention that they deserved, and to celebrate women’s cricket on 8 March was just perfect”. This was the first time that Simantika had watched a cricket game at a stadium and even though her team lost the game, she felt “amazing to cheer for women in blue”—the Indian team colours. “I would like to thank Australia Awards for arranging this awesome opportunity for us,” Simantika added gratefully.

The profile of Australian women’s cricket has grown impressively right around the world, and a substantial part of the progress has been achieved domestically. Australia’s national women’s players are highly regarded at home, with a long winning history and a fan base that has steadily increased in recent years.

Australia Awards scholars from South and West Asia at the ICC Women’s Twenty20 Cricket World Cup final in Melbourne

Cricket Australia has been progressive when it comes to equality in sport. Previously, they had added to the prize money won by the Australian women’s cricket team to ensure equality with the men’s winnings—and the prize money pool for the 2020 women’s World Cup represented an increase of 320% on the 2018 tournament.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has extended its support for women and girls around the world through a partnership with UNICEF. This has provided UNICEF with a vital platform to raise awareness of its global work and generate donations. During the ICC Women’s Twenty20 Cricket World Cup final, UNICEF raised donations to support cricket projects supporting girls in Sri Lanka.

Bangladeshi scholar A K M Raquibul Hasan thoroughly enjoyed the game. “Cheering on the Australian team in the big final at the fantastic Melbourne Cricket Ground was the experience of a lifetime for me,” he said. “Nothing could be better than to feel the vibe of Generation Equality.”