Empowering women through sports

The parable of the mustard seed is that it must die so it may have life.

Ideally, the mention of Tahina Booth will always have avid local sport followers taken back to the 2015 Pacific Games when she fell short of representing the country in powerlifting.

She had not received her dual citizenship in time.

That would have been the end of it many would have thought.

Instead the part Iokea lass took a seed out from the experience and out from it sprouted the Grass Skirt Project, a Not for Profit charity. (www.grassskirtproject.org)

Many who have been inspired to start a project will know how easy it is discussing and throwing ideas that look good on paper.

The hardest often most difficult part is putting words into action. That is where the passion deep inside comes into play and Booth has tons of it.

“To describe myself in a nut shell; I am ambitious, empowered and my passion is sport, I live and breathe this lifestyle every single day.

“Sport for me is not just about playing a game and catching up with mates.

“Sport has been an integral part of my educational and professional development as a person.

“I have learnt more about life’s highs and lows through playing rugby league and learnt that my intrinsic motivation stems from something deep within myself; to prove that I am capable and can do what I desire most in life. I owe this empowerment to believing that if I could win on the field I could win off the field and apply these same principles in other areas of life.

“One of the greatest features is my ability to network and engage communities to promote positive messages. 

“I am a strength athlete and compete in Olympic weightlifting and am working towards making the 2018 Com games team for Australia. I have been competing in this sport for 2 years and prior to that I was powerlifting and playing football, surf rowing, athletics, basketball, volleyball, and tennis,” said Booth.

The Grass Skirt Project was born when Aaron (Alsop) arranged for Booth to trial for a position on the Pacific games team in powerlifting.

While training back home with some of the members of the powerlifting team she learned of how training with sophisticated equipment was new and for many it was their first time.

“I saw shoe swapping on competition day between sets and coaches explaining how to lift like it was the first time for them to hear this concept.

“What I saw was a real need for equipment and positive role models.

“PNG has potential world class athletes in every village and I believe that Grass Skirt Project and Partners like HP can identify future women leaders,” said Booth.

Grass Skirt Project is changing the lives of girls and women in Papua New Guinea by enabling them to play sports Booth offers.

“Grass Skirt Project delivers gently used sports equipment and gives healthy doses of inspiration to women across Papua New Guinea in an effort to empower women and change attitudes about the role of girls and women in society through sport.

“GSP partners with PNG sporting organisations that believe in gender equality and aim to help them by giving donated equipment which will enable them to deliver more sporting programs to all.

“The power of playing a sport to change the lives of all women is undeniable. 

“Women and girls who play sport have higher levels of self-confidence and self-esteem, they are less likely to suffer an unintended pregnancy; more likely to get better grades in school and more likely to graduate than girls who do not play sports.

“Family violence (domestic and sexual violence) in PNG is devastating entire generations and the oppression felt by many women is unfortunately seen as common place,” said Booth.

So far GSP has sent two shipments of equipment with the first, 500kg’s of gym equipment delivered last November to Commonwealth Gold Medalist Dika Toua’s gym and another arrived just this week full of surfboards for Andy Abel’s Surfing Association Papua New Guinea (SAPNG).

GSP also has partnered PNG Basketball and will be doing a shoe collection for them to help with their Hoops for Health program.

Booth is currently grinding out the hours at the gym getting into shape for the 2018 Commonwealth Games while driving the project with her ambassadors in Australia collecting gears for the local sporting communities in PNG. 

She hopes local business communities in PNG can support her cause to empower women and girls in the country.


Troy Taule