Levelling the Playing Field for Women in Sport

Until recently, it was accepted that women should not practice sports, since they were meant to take care of domestic chores.
Now, practising sports is tearing down the walls of social paradigm and making a statement for equality among men.
Sport contributes to women and girls’ strength and self-esteem. It also largely contributes to society through the alleviation of poverty and disease including HIV/AIDS, thus ensuring their well-being.
The sad scenario in Africa is that few women are practising sport, both as players and in leadership positions and the continent has a lot of work to do.
Ultimately, countries within the African continent should have more women in sport. They should empower women through either sport or education to improve their rights, break barriers between social classes, raise women’s standing in society, enhance unity and reconciliation and prevent HIV/AIDS.
Governments, stakeholders in sports and organisations in the continent should build capacity among African women: for sports ‑ players, coaches, referees, administrators; for life skills – education, health, promotion of women’s rights, peace and reconciliation; and for income generation ‑ job skills and entrepreneurship.
More so, it should be the ultimate goal of African countries to raise the self-esteem of women in the continent by participation in sporting teams and family planning, HIV/AIDS and nutrition programmes.
The newly elected Zimbabwe Olympic Committee (ZOC) Women’s Commission chairperson, Leticia Chipandu, says she wants to see more women involved in sport, as either athletes or administrators.
Chipandu says her ambitions for the next four years are to see an increased number of female athletes and sports administrators in local sport. She also committed herself to maintain close engagement with all Olympic sports associations so that she can understand their challenges and seek ways of resolving them.
“My aspirations will be to see more girls and women taking up sport coming into administrative posts and I pledge I will continuously keep in touch with them to understand their challenges,” said Chipandu.
It is the duty of sports federations in Africa to engage and increase the number of women and girls through sports, connecting emerging women leaders from across the continent with leading women within sports and embracing the use of sport as a tool to bring Africans together.
Without doubt, women in sport have higher levels of confidence and self-esteem and lower levels of depression. Thus, more women should be encouraged to engage in sports since it is where they can learn about teamwork, goal-setting, the pursuit of excellence in performance and other achievement-oriented behaviours ‑ critical skills necessary for success in the workplace.
Honestly, it is clear that sports and physical activity are valuable tools for growth both in the continent and abroad. Therefore, all boys and girls, men and women, regardless of their ethnicity, religious beliefs, socio-economic status, or educational background, should have equal access to sport and play.
Accordingly, African governments should be committed to ensuring that all communities and societies provide sports opportunities for women and girls across the continent. Political and community leaders and players in the sports sector should also continue to bring success stories of triumph to the forefront to help inspire not only women and girls but boys and men too.

May 2013
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