Although sport is being constantly pushed to keep its foot on the accelerator when it comes to addressing gender gap in sport, the gap remains a major concern.
According to research, 1 in 2 girls drop out of sport before reaching the age of 20 years old.
Despite attempts by organizations like Women in Sport Botswana (WASBO) and Open Discussions with Tsosi to increase awareness around the issue, the problem still persists.
Speaking to this publication, one school teacher and coach said once most girl athletes leave school, they drop out of sports. “It is easier to keep them in sport while they are still students because we are able to control them. Once they finish school, we cannot retain them as we no longer have the same control as we did while they were our students,” said the teacher.
As to what could lead so many girls to drop out of sport, the teacher could not clearly state any other reasons. However, sport activist Game Mothibi says there are many reasons that seem to lead to girls dropping out of sport.
Some of these reasons, she says, may include lack of role models and female coaches, cultural norms, gender roles and peer pressure.
Mothibi says when the girlchild does not have anyone to look up to as they evolve in sport as it is dominated by men, they end up dropping out.
“There is less support given to young girls, especially from their peers, families and coaches,” she says.
“This is borne out of a belief that girls do not amount to anything when it comes to sport. This results in them in them dropping out due to lack of support and motivation,” she explains.
Mothibi says another contributor is our cultural norms and practices. She says norms which dictate that ‘ngwana wa mosetsana ga a phirimelelwe ko ntle,’ can be a hindrance.
She says sport practice and trainings happen in the afternoons after school, and this is the very same time when girls are expected to be home.
Mothibi says this unfortunately affects their training schedule and prohibits them from them from performing well, hence eventually dropping out.
She goes on to point out that gender roles assigned by the society can also contribute to drop out of girls from sport.
“Another factor is that they are in a stage of discovering who they think they are, and what they want to be or think they want to be, so some will leave sport because it is not what they truly want but they were forced into,” she says.
On the other hand, Tsoseletso Magang says one of the biggest problems making it difficult to retain a girl in sport is lack of implementation of policies put in place to safeguard the girl child.
“There are a lot of policies that are being ignored. We tend to place friendship above any other thing hence our girlchildren are suffering,” she says.
“Take a good look at netball as a typical example. For a long time now, netball has not been performing and no one is taking any action regarding this. And the is a lot of sporting codes like that. Painfully it is business as usual,” she points out.
As a board member for Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) Magang says it is painful and shameful that not enough is being done on the issue of policies on the girl child’s inclusion in sport.
“Few months back when I proposed that we need to monitor how our executive associates are performing, I was told I do not understand my duty as a board member,” Magang says.
For her, unless there is seriousness on the issue of implementation of policies there will not be any change or whatsoever.
“Those who are implementing policies should ensure that women are heard too and considered,” she says.
“Look at the budget of our different sporting codes. You will never find anything that is focused on developing the girlchild, yet we know that keeping a girl child takes more unlike a boychild where it only takes ego and masculinity,” Magang says.