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Sports at 50: Women, disabled are marginalized

While Botswana has made great inroads in sports and its development; there is still a long way to go as far as development of women in sports and inclusion of people with disability is concerned.

The two groups, especially people living with disability have for a long time decried alienation in crafting of policies especially the disabled. Women have been included, though not to their satisfaction, thanks to the formulation of Women and Sport Botswana (WASBO) in 1994. The two, nonetheless, continue to lament about the same enigma they have grappled with since establishment of Botswana National Sports Council (now Commission) (BNSC) 51 years ago.

According to gender/human rights activist and Secretary General of the International Women Working Group (IWG), Game Mothibi, this country has made great progress but there is still a long way to go.

“Let’s acknowledge that there is something and we have made strides but I’m not happy because I know we can do more as a country,” she said before adding that, “the progress is not satisfactory considering the fact that up to now we have no policy that supports women and sports. We have no gender mainstreaming to be able to programme for both men and women. We are not holding enough conversations with sport leadership on how to support girls and women, we don’t have programmes in place to make sporting environment conducive for women and girls' participation in sport, we do not have programmes in place to retain women and girls in sport, we do not have plans in place for athletes to grow into technical officials or administrators,” Mothibi explained.

Some of the challenges females face in sports has been harassment and sexual abuse from their male counterparts. This has been worsened by the fact that women are lax when it comes to sport participation.

Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) CEO, Tuelo Serufho, also concurred with her about the marginalized group saying the participation of women in sports activities is worrisome.

“The current statistics for Botswana indicate 30% average participation of women in the 2014 major games and 40% women representation in administration courses delivered between 2013 and 2014.”  Further adding that, “BNOC has set a target of 30% female representation at sport participation and leadership levels by 2016. However the current representation is unknown at sport participation level, with only 12.5% female representation in the BNOC board.” 

BNOC is currently conducting research on women participation in sport, as a means to bridging the gaps and finding the missing pieces in the puzzle. The study was awarded P450, 000 from the Commission’s coffers and is due next year. An environment which is conducive and structures in place advocating for the marginalized group to participate as well as structures for the same group to report when harassed are some of the main needs for local sport if it is to transform and make the playing field level.

Another group which according to Mothibi is taken for granted is people living with disability, who despite less considered in the sports fraternity have so far proven their capabilities. She is of the view that if Botswana aspires to be a sport hub all the stakeholders should be engaged.

“For us inclusion talks with all the minority groups or marginalized, like people with disabilities and Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgenders (LGBT’s) is imperative. So support is lacking for all those groups and I must say it’s not in Botswana only but around the world.” Mothibi further added:” Our point of departure is that if someone is disabled and is a woman she will suffer double discrimination.” Recently there have been allegations of sabotage following the Paralympian, Keatlaretse Mabote’s performance at the Paralympics games and his coach, Raj Rathedi, argued that the athlete was ill prepared as compared to able athletes.

SPORTS EVOLUTION: 50 YEARS

Meanwhile with this country celebrating 50 years of independence, what are the impressions for sports administrators over the evolution of sport? For Keorapetse Setlhare, President of Private Tertiary Institutions Association (PTIA), Botswana has done a lot: “Introductions of many sport codes, qualifying for major events, participating in international events and winning medals at the Olympic and international competitions shows that we have done well.”  

Besides hosting   major events (international events) like Africa Youth Games and next year’s netball world cup, improved sports facilities in Francistown, Lobatse and the Introduction of the Minister of Youth and Sports and Culture are other developments that should make one celebrate independence from the sporting fraternity. 

However other administrators who prefer anonymity argue that we are still many years behind. “We haven’t done much my man; it’s a case of taking two steps forward and three steps backwards. Personally I think we haven’t moved because we never invested in building a good structure and without a good structure we will never move beyond where we are,” a faceless administrator said.

The main factors that has made Botswana to be stagnant are poor governance, development and poor sports structures according to some and the medals won at international events were “just a bonus because we haven’t invested much on grassroots programmes.” Botswana celebrated her 50 years sovereignty yesterday where the national football team was playing against Angola.

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