Sunday, December 5, 2021

Botswana must do more to address sexual harassment in sport

When the IWG conducted a panel discussion under the theme “A GIRLS PLACE IN BOTSWANA SPORT; A CRITICAL ASSESMENT,” sexual harassment was mentioned as one of the challenges afflicting women in local sports. Though only one case regarding such has been reported in the country over the years, it is widely believed that this may be wide spread. Commenting at the IWG panel discussion, one former athlete, who is still involved in women’s sport, said the issues where ladies have to accede to providing sexual favours to keep playing sport exist. In an interview, some female athletes who attended the IWG organised panel discussion concurred that the issue is there and it exists across various sporting codes.

They however said reporting the issue is tricky as there are no proper structures and policies, and if any, no one knows which channels to follow.
Commenting on the issue, Botswana National Sports Council (BNSC) Chairperson, Solly Reikeletseng conceded that the council does not have policies and structures in place to address issues of sexual harassment.

“The truth is we do not have any structures and policies to address issues of such nature. What we have always relied on, as with the only case that was reported, is taking the legal route to address such cases should they crop up,” Reikeletseng explained. Speaking in an interview, the BNSC Chairperson said while only one case has been reported thus far, this does not mean the problem does not exist. “As the BNSC, we are trying to push our affiliates to help us facilitate such policies but they have not been so forthcoming. They only speak up about them is some forums but they do not push to have policies in place to address them,” he said. Reikeletseng was however optimistic that the newly elected committee of the Women and Sport Botswana (WASBO), an arm of the BNSC sanctioned to deal with women issues in sport will help facilitate a framework policy to guide Botswana sport to address the issue.

Reached for comment on the issue, IWG Secretary General Game Mothibi said the fact that female athletes have mentioned the issue suggests that it exists. “What many people have said before that the issue is not common in Botswana, citing that it happened only once does not hold water. What they should be saying is that there is only one reported case, not that the issue does not exist,” the IWG Secretary General said. She said if women and the girl child are to continue playing sport, it is very important that proper structures and policies be put in place. “These processes must include vetting all those who will be dealing with the female athletes to check if they have not had sex related cases before to prevent any cases of such nature cropping up,” Mothibi explained.

With the BNSC a signatory to the IWG, Mothibi said they will be pushing the council to put in place policies and structures to ensure local women are comfortable playing sport. “We will continue engaging both the BNSC and WASBO to push the agenda of women. We are also in the process of getting the Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) to also sign with the IWG and we intend to engage them on issues involving women in sport as well,” the IWG Secretary General explained. She said though IWG deals with women issues at International level, the intention is that when Botswana ceases hosting IWG in four years time, there will be some good legacy for Botswana sport and policies to address various challenges facing female athletes in the country, including that of sexual harassment. For her part, the Chairperson of the newly elected WASBO committee, Grace Muzila said her committee intends to have policies in place when their term ends in four years. She said with her committee having been ushered into office recently, they are still doing a ‘baseline research which will give WASBO pointers as to how to set up structures and policies to address women and sport issues in Botswana.’

“As an arm of the BNSC, WASBO is hopeful that when our current committee’s mandate comes to an end, we will have sound policies and structures in place,” the WASBO Chairperson explained.

In the interim, Muzila said there is a need to educate the female athlete, more especially those still at the Botswana Primary Schools Sports Association (BOPSSA) and the Botswana Integrated Sports Association (BISA) on how to deal with such issues. “There are guidelines that need to be followed and I believe if we educate our girls and female athletes on the issue, we can fight this challenge. I believe if the selection policies put in place by the BNSC are followed, issues of this nature will be greatly reduced,” the WASBO Chairperson concluded.


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