South African women urged to play a bigger role in society | SASCOC - SASCOC

South African women urged to play a bigger role in society

 SASCOC on Saturday expounded on the role women should play in all sectors, especially in sport, as advocated by many constitutions including the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Charter which fosters gender equality.

“Twenty-one years into democracy, we still have women wanting to negotiate their right to lead and be involved in matters that are close to their hearts,” said SASCOC President Gideon Sam. “So women are here to strategise and are going to negotiate their rightful place in sports administration.”

Sam was speaking at the Olympic governing body’s first Women and Sport Working Group Session held on 18 April at Olympic House in Johannesburg attended by more than 60 women from various sectors of society ranging from business, NGOs and Sporting Groups, together with the Deputy Minister of Sports and Recreation, Gert Oosthuizen, Chairperson of the Women Commission and SASCOC Deputy President Hajera Kajee, Judge Navi Pillay who served as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights from 2008 to 2014, Chairperson of Eminent Persons Group, Mr Somadoda Fikeni, SASCOC CEO, Tubby Reddy and Unicef representative in Côte d’Ivoire, Mr D. Herve Ludovic de Lys.

Sam expressed his concerns, “The more I attend sessions like these, the more I ask myself, why do we take so long to implement the dictates of our constitution. There is reluctance on the part of women sport administrators to support one another to get seats. Few women stand out and contest these positions.

Sam added that in 2015 it is disturbing that we are still trying to find a formula to make representation by women in sport real, especially considering that in other structures and sectors, women do so many things on their own and excel, yet in sport women are taking a step back.

“Some of the reasons could be issues of patriarchy in our society, cultural norms of the place women should take and therefore we totally ignore the constitutional dictates and carry on with life as usual,” added Sam.

Concluding his remarks, Sam encouraged the delegates that the next time they gather for such assemblies, they should be highlighting the strides taken by women in their NFs, Provincial Confederations and any other sporting bodies.

Deputy Minister of Sport and Recreation South Africa, Mr Gert Oosthuizen informed the delegates that sport is a natural phenomenon, which should bring inclusiveness regardless of a person’s sexuality, gender, race and class. “Sport and the right to play is a human right. Sport is used for peace building and as a humanitarian tool.

“Despite great participation of women in sport, women are significantly discriminated against in sport, and are subject to gender violence. More work is required to enable boys and girls to be treated equally in sport in order to achieve our millennium goals as a nation.

“The Government would like to ensure all women and girls have an opportunity to participate in sport, and recognise their diversity of needs, especially those of women and girls with disabilities”, he concluded.

On the same note, Judge Pillay gave her valid input on how women should take initiative to occupy high positions and participate in sport.

“Our own constitution entrenches equality and non-discrimination. Why is a larger women population excluded in sport, are women not interested in sport, or not skilled enough? We have to counter these perceptions and participate actively in sport.”

Judge Pillay encouraged the meeting to look for areas where women can break through and breach the barriers in sport through working in collaboration with women groups such as NGOs and sporting groups.

“Women are a special interest group and have to take initiative to succeed in sport. One of the strategies is that women have to occupy a greater percentage in various sporting bodies. We challenge the normal on the human rights basis – for example to say women don’t play football. We need collective action from everyone to address the issue of gender discrimination, including the business sector,” Judge Pillay concluded.

In the same light, Mr Somadoda Fikeni the Chairperson of the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) also shared his sentiments in his address,  “As the Women and Sport strategy is crafted it’s not just the broader things that matter but it starts with the smallest things which should be inclusive of women and not discriminate against them.

“Transformation is only assumed to refer to racial transformation yet it goes beyond that and covers issues of women and sport and in all other entities of society. We have the Women and Sport strategy but let us concentrate on the implementation and results,” added Fikeni.

Kate Roberts, two-time Olympian and a silver medallist in the team event at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, shared her experiences as a female athlete and the challenges she faced.  She however, encouraged women to take the initiative and be proactive in order to succeed and play a fundamental role in sport.

Now, as a retired athlete, Roberts has formed a Triathlon junior development club to give back to society and assist young girls develop the sport.

Former Banyana Banyana captain from 2005-2008, Keneilwe Mathibela reiterated: “Women in sport are still lagging behind in marketing, media, funding and many other aspects. Women are not taken seriously especially in football.”

Mathibela concluded by encouraging the nation to rally behind women in sport and requested the corporate world to assist with funding especially for women in sport.