Women and sport – the struggle continues

By Andrew Bonani Kamanga

The struggle for equality and involvement of women and girls in various facets of public life continues. It is as old as humanity itself. Sport has been viewed as a catalyst for the driving and enhancing equality between men and women, boys and girls.   

Wowever, sport in some instances, sport has also contributed to more oppression and marginalisation of women and girls.

In some countries, women are not even allowed anywhere near sports fields or stadia. It is a fact that men hide behind culture and religion to discriminate against women and perpetrate some of the most heinous crimes against humanity.

There is now an established international labour movement drive for “equal pay for equal work”.

One can only wonder why male Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) are in most cases, paid far much more than their female counterparts.

When one looks at the achievements of women in sport, it is indeed quite scandalous that they should be paid less money in sport.

Some event organisers like the All England Tennis Club who organize the Wimbledon tournament, and who obviously claim to be very enlightened, are equally guilty of perpetuating ancient and obsolete gender stereotyping and inequality.

Until recently, there have been huge differences in the prize monies for male and female champions, which makes the involvement of women and their efforts a complete joke.

These people are being dragged kicking and screaming to have equal prize money for men and women, boys and girls in sport.

International Federations (IFs) must also help to transform sport as we know it by ensuring equal opportunities for both men and women.

The IFs are responsible for setting the parameters within which national federations operate.

Even national leagues must be brought to account. Gender issues need to be mainstreamed into sports leadership and management such that at every level of sport development planning and programme implementation, inclusion, equity and equality issues are taken into consideration.

Simply because these things have been happening in the past and were accepted by society as the norm does not necessarily make them right.

There are lots of aspects in every culture which have been eliminated because they are hindrance to human development. Inequality in prize money for sport does not help to develop women and girls.

It is almost the same thing as saying girls should not go to school. Indeed, in some communities, faced with resource constraints, a family would rather send the boy child to school at the expense of the girl child, even if the latter could be far more intelligent than the former.

Even the issue of child marriages is one vestige of primitive traditions that are a crime against humanity and need to be done away with.

Probably, the young girl would rather be enjoying herself in school as well as on the sports field but she is forced to bear children and become a woman much early in her life, with devastating consequences for her and society as a whole.

When it comes to Southern Africa, women’s leagues in any sport are very few and far between.

They struggle to get sponsorship. Most Women’s Football Leagues do not have a sponsors.

To add insult to injury, they are no recognised cup tournaments to motivate the women and girls in most countries.

Women’s sport is treated as a big joke. This very wrong. By not fully devoting resources to the development of women’s sport, society is holding back the development of more than half of its people as women constitute the majority of most  populations.

Developing women sport and providing them with equal rewards is not doing them a favour but rather it is good for sport and accelerates development of humankind.

When it comes to elite sport, such as at  the Olympic Games, it always very sad to see, at the opening and closing ceremonies, some team delegations proudly marching and representing their countries, without any female members amongst them. In this connection, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and IFs should strictly apply universality rules.

Universality means having everyone represented, including both men and women. Diversity means accepting everyone as they are but within the established rules and regulations of sport.

It does not mean that each and every one comes up with their own rules and regulations, otherwise there would be no civilization, sport or even the international community as we know it.

As Abraham Maslow, correctly remarked, “One can choose to go back to safety or forward to growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again” Sport leaders should lead by example.

Developing sport for women and girls as well as paying them well means growth and transforming society for the better. It is not a favour to the women and girls. It is their inalienable right!

October 2017
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