Recognizing sport as a powerful tool for inclusion - #iRespectU International Youth Day interview on equality, diversity and inclusion in the Caribbean

Shauna-Kay Hines is a para-athlete in Taekwondo from Jamaica. She has participated in various international sport competitions and will represent Jamaica in the Paralympics 2020 in Tokyo. She joined UNESCO’s #iRespectU campaign to talk about her relationship with sports and its power to promote equality, diversity, and inclusion in the Caribbean SIDS.


Tell us about yourself and your relationship with sport. What does sport and especially the journey to the Paralympics 2020 in Tokyo this year mean to you? 

My name is Shauna-Kay Hines and I am from Dunkirk, a volatile community in East Kingston, Jamaica. But I believe that where you come from doesn't have to define you. I have a disability, I am born an arm amputee. Based on my strong family support and family structure, I wasn't exposed to disability communities until about the age of 26 or 27.

Since I have come closer to the community of persons with disabilities in sports, I have identified that many do not feel that they are equal to others. We want to be equal to everybody within all sports circles and society as a whole.
Shauna Kay-Hines, Taekwondo para-athlete, Jamaica

My first international sport competition was in Chicago in 2016, where I participated in the 100-meter race. Back then, I did not qualify for the Paralympics. Christopher Samuda, President of Jamaica Paralympic Association suggested to me that I could try Taekwondo instead. He told me, “you know you have a fighting spirit and with your speed, try for the fighting." 

From there on, I participated in many different Taekwondo competitions and then qualified for the Paralympics 2020 in Tokyo this year.

What role does sport play in promoting equality, diversity, and inclusion in the Caribbean?

It means a lot, especially for our community of persons with disabilities. There is not enough support for para-athletes. I was lucky that I received a lot of support from my family, so I didn't feel as if I wasn't a part of society. Now, that I have come closer to the community of persons with disabilities, participating in sports, and traveling to different countries, I have identified that a lot of them do not feel a part of society, they do not feel that they are equal to others. We want to be equal to everybody within all sports circles and society as a whole. 


How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected you? And how do you think it has affected the Para-sports community? 

Personally, the pandemic has not affected me much, as I have a regular nine-to-five job that I could do mainly working from home. But it has had an impact in terms of the overall financial status of most persons in Jamaica, and especially of persons with disabilities. 

On another note, it is difficult to avoid contact when training professionally. Firstly, Taekwondo is a contact sport. Secondly, the training venue in Kingston was closed because of COVID-19, so I now have to travel two hours by public transport to Mandeville to train, which puts my health at risk.

Many Caribbean countries are places of sporting excellence. What do you think needs to be done to get more young people involved in sport? 

Jamaica has a culture where we have to see how things are going, in order to wanting to be a part of it. Money is a limiting factor that stops many young people from participating in sports. If one cannot afford the proper nutrition and travel expenses because many training venues and events are far away, they get discouraged. In my case, for example, I don’t have a nutrition programme or travel support. When I pay these expenses out of my pocket, it affects my rent. Also, there is a lack of proper facilities and clubs to train.

The high schools or colleges in each parish of Jamaica could facilitate support for two or three athletes with disabilities and send coaches to receive sensitization training about para-sports, including how to adequately train persons with disabilities. 

Is there anything that you want to share with young people in Jamaica and the Caribbean to engage them to overcome these challenges?

Trust in your faith, be patient. It does not matter where you are from, whatever community, whatever parish. If you have a mindset knowing what you want to achieve, you will be successful. Elaine[1]  writes this down every day. I don't write it down every day, but I focus on what I want to achieve in my mind every day. 

Another message I would like to share is to remember that everyone’s time to achieve is different, today might be your time, tomorrow mine. But once you exercise faith in yourself and patience, you will succeed.

What are your plans for the future? 

My plans are to go to the Paralympics and be at the podium. I also want to finish my degree in sports management at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus and I want to be a part of the Para-Sports community and support its growth in Jamaica, so we are better represented and more visible internationally.

Every day a person with a disability is born. You have to support the next generation in sport and education, so they can feel part of society.

UNESCO wishes Shauna Kay-Hines all the best as she continues her journey in sport and plans for the future.


The ideas and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewee; they are not necessarily those of UNESCO.

  [1] Editor’s note: Elaine Thompson-Herah, Jamaican track, and field athlete, gold winner of 100 meters and 200 meters at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

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UNESCO recognizes Sports as an essential instrument for development and peace, as it transcends borders and societal differences. It promotes social inclusion and economic development in different geographical, cultural, and political contexts.

UNESCO, as the United Nations’ lead agency for physical education and sport, promotes the educational, cultural, and social dimensions of sport and physical education. The Organization provides advisory services and guidance to the Member States in the elaboration and strengthening of sport policies in the national context.