Like any other profession, sport is littered with its own sordid episodes of abuse, harassment and discrimination.
And like most areas, these issues are sometimes swept beneath the carpet of silence.
As Botswana makes concerted efforts to incorporate safeguarding culture in its sports routine, the burning question has always been whether local sports associations are ready to embrace it.
Botswana Netball Association (BONA) president Malebogo Raditladi-Nkgakile says her association embraces the safeguarding culture as an effort to create a safe and enabling environment for everyone in sport.
“As BONA, we dream of having an environment that allows everyone to be free to volunteer, play and support the sport freely,” she says.
She says sport should be inclusive for all irrespective of their gender, status or physical ability. Raditladi-Nkgakile says such an environment should be free from all forms of harassment, abuse, bodily harm, competition manipulation, antidoping, corruption and many more.
As such, she says BONA already has a safeguarding officer and also has two athletes who have gone through the same training. The BONA president says they intend to send more athletes as well as two executive members for training, all through Sports Management Agency (SMA).
“We believe that there should be a standing committee specifically for that, with experts covering all sections of safeguarding, hence BONA has established a Safeguarding committee that has all areas of safeguarding in sport covered,” Raditladi-Nkgakile, who is also the Coordinator of Africa for safeguarding in sport under the NIF (Nowergian Olympic Committee) says.
She further noted that in that committee they have members with background in Gender equality, human rights, correctional services, child protection unit, forensic, environmental health, and antidoping. We also have the Women’s committee that will work along with the safeguarding team.
Her only lament is that it took this long for local sport to adopt a safeguarding culture. “Sport is no exception because whatever affects the society also affects sport. Netball is not immune to that and we might be the most vulnerable code as this is a women majority sport. So, we rather plan to have it now in place for prevention as we cannot cure the past pains but we can be able to determine the future by putting measures in place,” she says.
“Botswana took long to act on it as it was long introduced in 2014 as a legacy plan during Africa Youth Games. If we could have taken that up, Botswana would be far with issues of safeguarding in sport and maybe already having a national safeguarding policy in place for all to align to,” says Raditladi-Nkgakile.
For Botswana Karate Association (BOKA) public relations officer (PRO) Isaiah Ramontshonyana, safeguarding to them means a bright future for their sport and retention for vulnerable groups. “I must make this clear it is not only looking at the girl child or boy child it’s across all age groups and officials,” he says.
The BOKA PRO says the association already has a safeguarding officer. He says they embrace safeguarding and they have already ‘had a workshop for all our affiliates and other stakeholders.’ “It was officially opened by World Karate Federation Safeguarding Coordinator,” he says.
In agreement with the initiative is the Botswana Table Tennis Association (BTTA) assistant PRO Arthur Kgaswe. He says to them, ‘safeguarding is all about dealing with all kinds of abuse in sports, ensuring that athletes’ rights are not violated and also enabling a harm free environment in and outside sport for children, youth and vulnerable adults.’
He says the whole essence of safeguarding includes dealing with all forms of abuse in sport, creating a safe sporting environment for children wherever they participate at any level as well as maintaining good practice and challenging any harm directed to children and adults. “Safeguarding is a great initiative as it will be of beneficial to the athletes as it will create a safe sport unto them by ensuring that their human rights are not being violated also it will enable them to partake in a free abuse sport. Also ensuring that behavioural code for the athletes is met also minimising risks unto them,” Kgaswe concluded.