Down With SA Rugby’s Gender Discrimination And Disregard For Women’s Rugby By Cheryl Roberts

22 Sep

Rugby in South Africa is a very rich sport. It is a bastion for male hegemony and male control of sport. Rugby is heavily corporate-backed and a moneyed sport. And rugby in SA is a sport that gives crumbs to women’s rugby and advances boys and men in rugby while girl rugby enthusiasts and women rugby players are treated with little respect and recognition.

Last weekend, the finals of SA Rugby’s prestige domestic competition for senior women was held in East London, featuring teams from four rugby playing regions and two finals in the A and B section. It was shocking to see not one senior SA Rugby exco member or Board official at this event, featuring women rugby finals. This is not the first time that a women’s rugby event has been disregarded or ignored by SA Rugby officials, It happens most, if not all the time.

Over the past decade, I have been to several women’s rugby events throughout South Africa and I haven’t seen SA Rugby officials at these events. Yes, there are employees like the managers from head and provincial offices, but nowhere are the senior officials when women’s rugby is played.

Why does SA Rugby disregard women’s rugby events? They sure don’t do this for men’s rugby! No ways! Officials are present at provincial, national and international matches of men’s rugby where they have catering and free bar services. It’s not only the national rugby officials who are absent from women’s rugby events. It’s the provincial rugby officials, too. You just don’t see them at provincial women’s rugby events. But the staff and managers are out there on the field of play when women’s rugby is going down.

The non-presence of SA Rugby officials at a women’s rugby final isn’t their only indication of gender disrespect. SA Rugby didn’t even finance the 2017 women’s final! The host of the final, Border Rugby, one of the poorer rugby unions in SA, had to finance the event. It was a no frills, low-cost event featuring, as I stated earlier, four women’s rugby teams.

But that’s not all! SA Rugby has a budget for women’s rugby. But its a very low-budget; nothing like the money allocated for boys and men’s rugby. The SA senior women’s  interprovincial plays only one round of fixtures and then the top two teams after that one round, contest the final in an A section and B section competition. How must players improve and develop and challenge their rugby prowess against other teams with just one round of play? The interprovincial kicks off in late July and ends in mid-September. What must the women rugby players do for the rest of the year?

Some of SA Rugby’s provinces like Western Province and Border are sincerely building girls and women’s rugby. Much of the other provinces couldn’t be bothered too much about this gender’s development in rugby; giving the girls and women in rugby little attention and resources.

About two years ago, SA Rugby took a decision to place their own moratorium on international women’s play involving South Africa, with the decision to concentrate on grassroots and girls in rugby. Many talented women rugby players just like that had their international ambitions trampled. The Springbok women weren’t faring well at international level and needed to build skills at youth level to groom the future senior players. But how do you want the players to improve with so little domestic and international competition? SA Rugby concentrates much on boys in rugby than the women in rugby. Yes, there are much more boys and men playing rugby but girls and women’s interest in rugby in growing around the world and in South Africa.

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It’s about the budget allocated for women’s rugby in South Africa. Much more money needs to be invested in girls and women’s rugby. SA Rugby says ‘they don’t have money’. What utter bullshit! Ofcourse they have money. They just choose to spend it on other activities and the men in rugby than investing in the women. Senior officials, Board members and exo members of SA Rugby are looked after nicely with financial remunerations. But what about the small budget given to women’s rugby in SA Rugby?

There’s no doubt that the male officialdom of SA Rugby have got to change and shift away from their male hegemonic thinking and control. The disrespect given to women’s rugby is shameful and SA Rugby shouldn’t be allowed to go on advancing boys and men in rugby while neglecting girls and women in rugby.

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Why Wasn’t Applause For Fabulous Black Sportswomen Achievements Thunderous? By Cheryl Roberts

14 Sep

It all happened in about one week. That’s when Black sportswomen slayed fabulously on the international sports stages around the world. And, amongst the slayers were South Africa’s black sportswomen, too.

Black women achieving in sport didn’t just happen recently. Despite their struggles, adversities and chains associated with being black, they’ve been slaying for some time and for some decades. But its been the one black sportswoman here and another later, somewhere there.

Amongst the amazing black sportswomen feats in one incredible week of sports triumph, there was Sloan Stephens’ magnificent US Open tennis championship victory, after being ranked somewhere in the 900’s through being out of competitive play because of injury. There was also Kenyan athlete Joyciline Jepkosgei who broke the world 10k record at an IAAF Gold Label Road Race in Prague.

South Africa’s black sportswomen, too were on the achieving page and stage. There was the awesome boxing achievements of South Africa’s black sportswomen. World champion Noni Tenge successfully defended her WBF title and Unathi Myekeni successfully claimed a world title. World class netballer Bongi Msomi, captain of the SA netball team led the national team to a famous historical win over England.

Get this! These women are black. They have not had easy pathways to international sports glory. They have emerged from grassroots sport to international triumphs.

So we know the black sportswomen performed and achieved fabulously. But why wasn’t the applause for these incredible achievements, especially of the South African black sportswomen, so loud that it would have been heard in both southern and northern hemispheres?

Yes, there were congratulations and acknowledgements of Noni Tenge, Unathi Myekeni and Bongi Msomi’s triumphs. But it was white sportsman and professional tennis player Kevin Anderson who seemingly got much more attention and publicity than the three black sportswomen all together.

What is it with South Africa that we just can’t celebrate with thunderous and deafening applause our black sportswomen? But then again, because of scant and now-and-then media publicity of black women in sport, much of SA don’t know about our black women world boxing champions nor about our Paralympic champion, Zanele Situ. And it’s really the larger netball community that knows about world class players Bongi Msomi and Pumza Maweni.

These black sportswomen, despite their amazing sports achievements like world, Olympic, Paralympic titles and world class status, just don’t attract corporate attention or association. But sportsmen who haven’t achieved as enormously and fabulously as the black sportsmen get corporate business and sponsorship contracts. How do you call this?

What the black women boxers Noni Tenge and Unathi Myekeni achieved in one night was phenomenal for country, women and blackness. As people got to know about their world titles, especially through social media, their sports prowess got some acknowledgement. But it wasn’t loud enough. It wasn’t as deafening as it should have been. Two world boxing titles by women were achieved by South Africans, in a boxing championship in South Africa, in one night. Yet, these world champion black women boxers were not celebrated as their global sports achievements deserved. And the sponsors and corporates still haven’t contacted them.

It’s a fact that media, publicity and sponsorship in sport in South Africa heavily favours the sportsmen and not the women in sport. Commercial media has, over the past decade given a little more space to sportswomen and men in sport. Sports fans and sports consumers often say they didn’t know that a ‘black woman boxing champion existed’, or ‘women played cricket and rugby’, or when national and international fixtures featuring women were taking place. Hence, sportswomen and their achievements/defeats/triumphs are lesser known

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Noni Tenge: World women’s boxing champion

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Pumza Maweni: South African international netballer

and not as loudly celebrated as should be.

Celebration of sports achievements is very gendered with sportsmen getting loud and thunderous applause whilst sportswomen, especially black achieving sportswomen, get some acknowledgement in the moment of the sports triumph like Olympic and world champion Caster Semenya, and then seemingly forgotten about. Black sportswomen rarely get corporate sponsors or business/sports contracts, sometimes they get some commercial media, and in between some award recognition. This is how a patriarchal, sexist, male-dominated society impacts on sports applause and celebration. This is how male hegemony, male control supervises and takes care of male domination. Black sportswomen, despite their impressive and incredible sports feats, are dissed and largely unacknowledged.

How Disgusting! SAFA’s #SasolLeague Women’s Football Teams haven’t Received Their 2017 Grants By Cheryl Roberts

6 Sep

 

Women’s football in South Africa is struggling for recognition and support, especially the formation of a national professional league for women footballers. As if that’s not enough, the little support the women’s game gets from a corporate sponsor, hasn’t this year found it’s way to the clubs/teams that keep women’s football going.

Get this! Teams in regions playing Sasol League competitions haven’t received their 2017 grants allocated to them from the Sasol sponsorship. This, despite the Sasol League already having entered it’s second round of competition.

I wa shocked to hear last weekend, when I was on the football field how teams in the Western Cape hadn’t received their grants and their kit. I then stated an opinion about this on social media and was subsequently informed how the situation is the same in KZN and Eastern Cape. Other teams from around South Africa informd me confidentially how they, too hadn’t gotten their money.

The question is: Who is responsible for the grants not being disbursed to the Sasol League teams? Has the sponsor Sasol paid the sponsorship to SAFA national? Has SAFA national received the sponsorship but not yet distributed the funds/grants?

We’ve just come through the month of August, known as women’s month in South Africa where women are the focus and thought about. In sport, too women in sport are mentioned as being taken care of and promised ‘bigger and better’ in SA sport.

But hold on! Why is women’s football being treated like this?

Women’s football teams throughout the country, playing in the Sasol Leagues are mostly administered by and kept afloat by a few volunteer officials and coaches. These volunteers use their personal time and money, in most scenarios, to keep girls, young women and women in the game. Now, just about 5 months after playing league matches in a structured competition organised by SAFA national and administered by SAFA’s regional structures, it has become public that the Sasol League women’s football teams are running on empty and at personal cost to the volunteer officials and coaches.

This is not fair. It’s an injustice to women’s football! There is a national corporate sponsorship associated with women’s football competition in SA. Where is the sponsorship money and kit?

This year is especially big for women’s football. SA is preparing girls and teenagers for world cup qualifying tournaments. It’s the clubs at regional level that must develop these players and surface the talent. How can the volunteers do this alone with no grants/funding coming their way?

Where is the sponsorship money? I ask again: Has SAFA national received the sponsorship from Sasol? As its already 5 months into Sasol League competition, surely Sasol can’t be holding back with the sponsorship? Surely Sasol doesn’t want their brand tarnished by them not paying the Sasol League grants? Why is SAFA not disbursing the grants; why is SAFA doing this to the women’s football teams?

When team representatives attend Sasol League meetings in their regions/provinces and enquire about their grants, they are told to keep quiet and not ask questions because women’s football can’t get sponsors and only Sasol is keen to sponsor women’s football. Yes, that’s true about there being no sponsors, except Sasol, for women’s football, at this juncture. But enquiring about your grant doesn’t mean you are ungrateful. You just want to know how much longer must you go on using personal money to keep women’s football going and growing when there’s a corporate sponsor associated with the competition that you are making ahppen!

I’m writing this because I hear and feel the frustration of those volunteers especially who help develop women’s football in SA. I’m writing and shouting out because this is injustice being done to women’s football in SA. I’m writing this because clubs are scared to speak out, terrified their talented players will be victimised by non-selection for national squads. I’m writing this and calling out SAFA national or Sasol (whomever is to blame), because there’s no organised voice for women’s football in SA; anyone speaking out against gender injustices in SAFA fear they could be disciplined.

No one wants to fight with SAFA. We all want women’s football to be supported and developed. So, where are the grants that should have been paid to Sasol League teams for the 2017 season? Who is hoding the money?

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I Never Want To Stop Celebrating South Africa’s Black Sportswomen Caster Semenya And Zanele Situ By Cheryl Roberts

9 Aug

Get this! We must not be shy to throw applause and indulge in celebration of the global sports feats and triumphs of South Africa’s black sportswomen, Caster Semenya and Zanele Situ. We are living in the time of  amazing world-class sports achievements by these black women; world accomplishments not easily attainable but indeed, achieved by South Africa’s Semenya and Situ.

It’s not like South Africa has a conveyor belt of black sports girl athletics talent. Yes, we have black girls participating in sport. However, they are largely invisible and missing when it comes to international representation. How much longer will we wait before we see again the era of spectacular athleticism of Semenya and Situ exhibited by an emerging generation of black girl athletes? Given that no world-class junior black girl athletics talent is being surfaced in South Africa, on the same level of that of Situ and Semenya, we must unapologetically revel in the triumphs and achievements of Situ and Semenya. This is their moment. This is our moment of appreciation and celebration, We might never again see, in our lifetime, such amazing sports feats being achieved by black South African sportswomen.

In a South African society of abundant sports talent and plentiful sports wealth located largely in elite male-dominated sports, black women in South African sport struggle, to not only become world-class, but also just to get out of the starting blocks en route to international participation.

In a South African sports paradigm saturated with male sports prowess, achieving black sportswomen at international level are few, but are remarkably out there. That they exist and have achieved on the international sports stage, is not only damn good, but splendid, given the struggling, adverse conditions most black girls and women have to contend with as they participate in sport.

When you’re a black woman in sport, negotiating your way onto international playing fields is most often littered with setbacks, disappointments, funding rejections, injury-challenges; this, coupled with the determination to triumph. It’s a harsh environment for women in sport who struggle much more than men, sometimes negotiating seemingly impossible pathways to higher levels of achievement. For black women, the struggle is much harder than for white women.

And, amidst the struggles pertaining to being black and non-able bodied, have emerged some amazing world-class black sportswomen from South African soil. Two of these sportswomen are athletes Caster Semenya and Zanele Situ; Semenya able bodied and Situ non-able bodied.

IMG_8303Black Sportswomen Caster Semenya And Zanele Situ Hold It  Down For Black Women

These black sportswomen have not only surfaced their talent. They have achieved spectacularly in world sport. Zanele Situ became Paralympic javelin champion in 2000 and Caster Semenya became Olympic champion in 2016. These are no easy-to-achieve feats! That Olympic and Paralympic titles have been won by these black South African women, is astounding.

These sports achievements are also much appreciated and respected when one recognises how harsh society is on and to black women. But these global sports triumphs have been attained by Semenya and Situ who demonstrate that black girls can develop into world-class and internationally achieving sportswomen.

I’ve noted already both Semenya and Situ being Olympic and Paralympic champions. In 2017, before Semenya even defends her world 800m title, both Situ and Semenya have won bronze medals at world events. Situ won bronze at the world para athletics and Semenya, a few days ago won bronze in the 1500m at the world athletics championship. These global feats are acknowledged and applauded in South Africa and by most South Africans. However, despite the spectacular, historical sports achievements by these black women, sponsorship/product endorsement still doesn’t come to them in recognition and praise of their sports successes.

For those of us who understand the interconnectedness of black and woman in a patriarchal, sexist, racist, misogynist, heterosexual-dominated society, we emphasise these sports achievements are claimed and owned by BLACK women in sport. We know and experience what it is to be black woman in a society most times intent at keeping you down, instead of supporting you.

When they participate in competition, Semenya and Situ carry the hopes of their blackness, gender, bodies for themselves and all who know the importance of having black sportswomen achievers. I can’t stop at celebrating Semenya and Situ; actually, I don’t want to stop overflowing the respect and applause. You see, in a South Africa where men get most sports media, money, recognition and applause, the sports feats of black women like Semenya and Situ give us much celebration alternatives, instead of having to applaud only success of sportsmen.

I want to enjoy and celebrate every moment of their fabulous sports feats. I want to feel with them when their world-class results are missing, when body and hustle are playing up, when the struggle feels harder than before. And when Semenya and Situ and other black sportswomen triumph internationally, I never want to stop my applause and celebration. Because I know that I’m experiencing amazing sports feats of black sportswomen.

South Africa’s Athletes/Players Forced By Officialdom To Be Quiet; Have No Voice! By Cheryl Roberts

27 Jul

Sport in South Africa is autocratic with democratic processes of interaction and discussion between officials and athletes non-existent. Sports federations are not only administered, but viciously controlled, by officialdom. Athletes and players are forced to be quiet, have no voice, are never asked their opinion, have no democratic discussions and are especially treated as non-thinking participants in sport.

Across the board, in all sports federations, officials are intolerant of athletes voices. It’s not that officialdom doesn’t like athletes/players to announce their opinion. It’s about sports officials being the oligarchical bosses, demanding athletes not to have a voice. Sports officials are especially scared to have athletes/players speaking out and challenging officialdom.

With most sports federations, before an athlete gives an interview they must ‘get permission’ and this permission is usually from the federation’s gatekeeper in the form of the communications/media person. These gatekeepers want to actually be present when the athlete is being interviewed. They will tell you it’s to guard the athlete from being misquoted or something like that. But it’s really to ensure the athlete doesn’t ‘speak out of line’, according to the sports federation.

Particularly in the era of social media, athletes/players are ‘monitored’ and anything remarked about or stated on social media that the federation official/s don’t approve of, is immediately and aggressively taken up with the athlete.

But what are officials in sport afraid of? Why are they representing sports officialdom as a dictatorship and dictated entity? Why are they so intent on controlling the minds, opinion and thinking of athletes/players and participants in organised sport?

It’s not only the officials that athletes are scared of; they also can’t question or challenge the appointed coach for fear of being dropped, not selected and sidelined.

It’s not just about silencing the voices of athletes. It’s also about ensuring the athletes have no critical consciousness. No political and social justice talk is allow; not even encouraged or supported! Can you believe this?

Athletes, players and their coaches are expected to train and participate in sport according to how officialdom sets the rules and regulations. No discussion or opinion is entertained or entered into. And the other gatekeepers are the employees in sports federations, most of whom administer sport from offices as if they own the sport, together with the officials.

Across all sports and in all sports, the athletes are trapped. They have voices that are silenced! Should they dare to speak out and give opinions, they are summoned for disciplinary action by insecure officials who rule the sport as if they own the sport.

Sometimes it gets too much and the athletes anger starts to boil. If it’s team action, then players stand together on a stronger foundation. If it’s an individual athlete speaking out, rarely do others support the athletes action, with athletes opting to view from the sidelines.

Competitive sport is fiercely competitive with selection being highly challenged and contested. With no athlete wanting to jeopardise their selection chances, they keep their voice quiet, speaking out only to close friends and contacts about their unhappiness, challenges and grievances.

The players and athletes get frustrated. They want to ask questions. They want answers. They have ideas about how sport can better deliver for athletes participation. Coaches dominate their thinking and behaviour. Officials silence them. There are no processes for athletes to speak out and challenge. They get told to take up challenges and grievances through their clubs and provincial structures. However, it’s in these very sports confines that athletes are silenced.

When representing provinces and country, athletes are briefed what to say and what not to say. Views about politics and social justice awareness are outlawed. The athletes/players are expected to concentrate on performance only, as if they exist outside the realm of society and it’s interconnectedness.

If athletes and players knew their power they would stand together, across all sports and boycott officialdom. Then what will officialdom have to administer and to whom would they dictate? But then again, athletes can’t perform without the officials who organise sport for them to participate in and compete.

A thorough assessment of the state of athlete/official relationship will reveal a state of being bullied. But really, the control of athletes voices is not only unhealthy for sport, it’s also unbearable! Athletes must be allowed to speak without fear of being victimised, disciplined, suspended or expelled. Dictators, autocratic and oligarchical officials in sport are harming sport.

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Cheryl Roberts (writer of the blog)

 

Why Are South Africa’s Black Sports Girls Not Emerging As World Class? By Cheryl Roberts

18 Jul

With phenomenal sports success being attained by South Africa’s junior and senior athletes, SA’s sport enthusiasts are in the throes of sports euphoria and sports happiness. Achievements on the global sports stages are applauded with pride and respect. Now that’s all very nice and patriotic.
However, we must not forget celebration of sports feats can also cloud our lens, blur our vision. When we look at the sports feats we must also ask ‘who are we celebrating’? South Africans, yes. But an honest appraisal and reflection will show how it’s the junior boys (of all colours) and senior men who are achieving awesome titles and medals, with some sportswomen and sports girls also getting their continental and global accolades.
But where are the black sports girls? Why are they also not achieving world class sports feats. It’s not just the white seniors and white boys and girls. The black boys and black senior male athletes are participating internationally in sport and achieving amazing results.
But the black girls and black women are not achieving world junior titles and world class performances. Look at South Africa’s recent performance in the world under 18 athletics championship in Nairobi. SA topped the medals table because it got more gold medals than other countries. But Kenya finished tops with 15 medals compared to SA’s eleven. SA had 4 black boy world champions and 1 white girl champion. Kenya delivered girls and boys amongst their medallists. If SA’s boys can become youth world champions, win global medals and produce world class performances, then why are we not seeing such scintillating performances from black girls?
To start with, black girls are participating in sport. They are developing from grassroots sport to become provincial champions and top ranked national players. But it’s the platform from national to international stage which is not proving supportive for them. National teams like athletics, swimming, hockey, badminton, netball have just a few black girls with much more white girls and boys. If the black girls can’t get selected for international representation, how is SA going to have representative national senior teams?
Whilst we celebrate sports achievements, it’s very easy to forget about the missing black girls. In the moments of triumph and subsequent national applause and pride we forget to ask the critical questions that are impacting on black girls performance in international sport. It’s not that black girls can’t achieve internationally. SA’s world class and world champion sportswomen such as Caster Semenya (athletics), Zanele Situ (para athlete), Noni Tenge (boxing), Bongiwe Msomi and Phumla Maweni (both netball) exist. This demonstrates that black women can achieve global sports feats and honours.
South Africa’s sports administration is moving towards selection of teams and athletes that will produce world class feats and win continental and global titles. With this selection policy being favoured, we must ask what support is being given to black girls to attain high continental and world ranking and deliver world class performances.
After world class athletes like Semenya, Tenge, Situ, Msomi and Maweni retire, where is the next generation coming from because, at this juncture, they are not surfacing from the junior ranks.
Whilst being thrilled about SA’s amazing international sports feats, we must also be worried and concerned about the slow, almost lack of development of black sports girls from national to international representation. If black boys are achieving fabulously on the world sports terrain, then why are the black girls missing? African countries like Kenya have shown in athletics that both their girls and boy athletes can perform admirably in world sport.
With applause centered on sports feats and achievements, we must be mindful and ask the critical questions about the missing black sports girls. It’s easy to lose ourselves in pride and applause without questioning the gender imbalance. National sports federations must be questioned and asked about the development and advancement of talented sports girls and sports boys, especially talented black sports girls. We want to know where and how are they being protected and supported in the sports system, why are they falling through the system.
If sport produces largely boy talent and champions without surfacing girl talent, then sport must be accused of especially neglecting black sports girls. Then we must respond, call them to attention, force them to arrest this imbalance and ask why the neglect of black sports girls.
It’s apparent that SA’s black sports girls are missing at international level. Seemingly, the black sports girls are being neglected, being allowed to fall through the cracks without being caught and supported with assistance to further develop. We won’t rest until black sports girls are visible on international sports stages with achievements and feats like the sports boy. South African Sports Woman . Published by Cheryl Roberts. Published in May 2017. Published in Cape Town in South Africa - Copy

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Why Are South Africa’s Black Sports Girls Not Emerging As World Class? By Cheryl Roberts

18 Jul

South African Sports Woman . Published by Cheryl Roberts. Published in May 2017. Published in Cape Town in South Africa - Copy