Before coronavirus struck, participation of women in sport in Botswana was gaining traction.
The suspension of sporting activities which came as a measure to curb the spread of the virus now threatens to reverse these gains.
Despite the challenging environment, local women have continued to show resilience and shine.
From the heroic display of the ladies’ senior national team at the COSAFA cup to online discussions, mentorship classes and triumphs at the 40th Botswana Sport Awards, just to mention but a few, local women continue to fight the odds.
Not deterred by prevailing circumstances, women sport veterans and administrators had to work hard in 2020 to keep the momentum for women to continue with sport in the new normal.
Tsosi Magang through her dialogue discussions, Women and Sport Botswana (WASBO) and other sport activist reverberated with their vocal advocacy to promote women in sport.
A year since disruptions in activities and with uncertainties on when sport will return, the message seems holding as generations of female athletes continue to keep the torch burning and invest in their sport and other related.
Among these are chess national team player and arbiter Tshepiso Lopang as well as Spain based rising tennis starlet Refilwe Youri.
Lopang is currently the Deputy Chief Arbiter for the ongoing first World Online University Chess Championships 2021 while Youri recently won the Open Under 18 category at the Catalan Federation tournament in Barcelona.
“The event will give me an opportunity to learn from the best. The Chief Arbiter chairs the European Union Arbiter’s Commission,” Lopang says.
“Under his guidance I will be able to improve my technical ability on online players monitoring, pairings and fair play,” she adds.
Lopang’s appointment is good news for Botswana Chess Federation (BCF) which, according to its Public Relations Officer (PRO) Kutlwano Tatolo prioritizes women participation in sport.
“The support structure at chess is quite continuous, from the game to school to careers,” she says.
“BCF takes on mentorship of other younger girls to help them cope with being in sports while prioritizing school. Onkemetse Francis who is a Woman International Master is mentoring Besa Masaiti while she is still in school, Masaiti is a Woman Fide Master,” she explains.
In promoting of women in chess, Tatolo states that BCF has adopted a positive discrimination approach where women have their own restricted section and also have access to the open section, while men cannot participate in the women section.
For her part Women and Sport Botswana (WASBO) Secretary General Keenese Tidzani says there is a selection of young girls in sport that she serves as a mentor.
“At organizational level, I serve and influence decision making at strategic and policy level for a conducive environment for participation of women and girls in sport as a Board Member for the Botswana National Sport Commission (BNSC) representing WASBO,” she says.
Tidzani is also the Chairperson for the BNSC Equity and Recreation Sub Committee, a sub committee responsible for provision of oversight on the development and growth of women sport, sport for people with disability, recreational sport and indigenous games with the commission.
She says as a founder of Limitless Minds Chess Academy, the academy is not just encouraging social inclusion but ensures a gender balance in its programs.
The academy has ventured youth development program in Mabutsane sponsored by Majwe Mining Joint Venture inclusive of 10 girls and 10 boys.