There is a need for the creation of a strong safeguarding culture within Botswana’s sports organizations.
The call was made during the recent media workshop on sensitive reporting on gender and children hosted by Sports Movement Agency (SMA).
Facilitating during the workshop, activist and co-founder of SMA Game Mothibi said a strong safe guarding culture is needed ‘to promote the welfare of children and protect them from harm.’ “It means protecting children from abuse and management, preventing harm to children’s health or development,” she explained.
Mothibi went on to add that ‘a sporting environment that is respectful, equitable and free from all forms of harassment leads to high productivity in sporting activities.’
“Safeguarding means protecting a citizen’s health, wellbeing and human rights, enabling them to live free from harm, abuse and neglect. It is an integral part of providing high quality health care. It is done to children, young people and adults as a collective responsibility,” said Mothibi.
She pointed out that among the ills that continue to plaque sport and make it unsafe is Gender Based Violence (GBV), which she said ‘continues to be a barrier for girls and women to participate in sports in Botswana.’
Mothibi said some of the contributing factors for GBV in sport are ‘coaches and officials who are engaged on a voluntary basis and no background check is done on them.’
Other contributing factors include lack of support structures for victims of GBV in sport, lack of sexual harassment policy in sport in Botswana (WASBO about to finalize the first ever policy) and no guidelines on team management composition.
As a result, she said girls drop out of sport at a very early age due to sexual harassment and abuse while perpetrators of such acts are not held accountable or reported.
On other issues that athletes needed to be safeguarded against, Mothibi said they include neglect. This she said exposes children to unnecessary risk of injury by ignoring safe practice guidelines and failing to ensure the use of safety equipment, or requiring young people to participate when injured or unwell.
“Others include peer on peer abuse which is bullying or harmful sexual behaviour directed towards a child by their peer. Harmful sexual behaviour is developmentally inappropriate, abusive, and sometimes violent such as sexual harassment, assault or rape,” added Mothibi.
She further added that others include poor practices whereby behaviour of staff or volunteer that fall below the required standard set out in your organization’s code of conduct such as turning up drunk, smoking and swearing in front of children and favouring or picking on a child.”
Mothibi then appealed to the media to play their part in safeguarding. “Media personnel should have the confidence to challenge poor practices. Not reporting is not an option,” she cautioned. She urged the media personnel to also tread cautiously when reporting on children.