The African Union (AU) Commissioner of Social Affairs, Dr Mustapha Kaloko, has implored stakeholders to accelerate the closing of gender inequalities in sport. He said this during the Africa Women and Sports Conference (AWSC) which was held in Gaborone over the past two days.
Quoting from the late Mozambican president Samora Machel, Kaloko said: “The emancipation of women is not an act of charity, the result of a humanitarian or compassionate attitude” but rather “a fundamental necessity.”
“The AU recognises that gender equality and women’s empowerment are not only fundamental human rights, but they are essential ingredients for sustainable development, peace and prosperity,” Kaloko said.
The AU representative said the conference gave Africa “an opportunity to re-examine and see how inclusive sport, with particular reference to women can be”.
He said the AU “is actively engaged with IWG on strengthening structures responsible for advancing women’s participation in sports”.
“We need to implore a gender mainstreaming approach to our strategies in sport. We need to ensure facilities are more accessible for women, facilities that are safe and secure,” Kaloko said.
According to the AU representative, there is a need to ensure women’s representation in decision making processes is increased, to advocate for more resources to be put into research in women and sport as well as to provide more access to training for women and girls in sport.
“By providing women and girls with a voice in programme design and decision making, training, and for leadership and advocacy, sport programmes can also empower and help equip them to take greater control over their own lives,” Kaloko continued.
He further highlighted that sport could increase self esteem among women and girls by giving them an opportunity to learn new skills, engage in positive relationships, acquire achievements and receive public recognition.
Among those who spoke at the conference were women athletes and match officials, who attested that women were still being maligned. Among them were Zambian footballer and sprinter Kabange Mupopo as well as Botswana’s first International Basketball Federation (FIBA) accredited referee Dorothy Okatch.
Speaking during a panel discussion, both Mupopo and Okatch contested that there was still some gender stereotyping that curtailed women’s full participation in sport. Mupopo lamented the lack of support and facilities for women, while Okatch attested to sometimes being sidelined from officiating in matches despite being qualified.
The conference, which is part of IWG on Women and Sport, was held under the theme “Reshaping Africa Women and Sports.”