Archive | November, 2012

Yes! Grassroots Sport Says Down With Hate And Abuse Of Sportsgirls And Sportswomen By Cheryl Roberts

20 Nov

Our shock, anger and disgust is overflowing into the trenches of social justice activism and to those in power! Grassroots sport has had enough of the abuse, attacks and assault crimes committed against our sportsgirls and sportswomen and we are speaking out.

Admittedly, organized sport has seemingly been silent as a voice when women in sport have been abused. But now, our voices are angry and our words are raging: We are saying we have had enough and, no more are we remaining silent. We are demanding there must be no more abuse of our sportsgirls and women.

In the wake of the death of teenage girl footballer, Sihle Sikoji, over a week ago in Cape Town, and following the deaths of several sportswomen over the years through criminal acts caused by hate, people in sport have had enough of being seen as silent and accepting of this abuse. Now we are speaking out against the horrendous and violent abuses against sportsgirls and women.

Abuse, rape and assault of women in sport is not new; it has been happening for decades, in South Africa, in Africa and all around the world. Whilst much of the abuse has occurred within sports realms, when sportsgirls and women have been participating in sport, much of these instances of abuse have gone unreported or have not been acknowledged as occurring within sport.

As we approach another annual event of the national programme ‘16 Days of Activism Against Abuse of Women and Children’, sport is reminded that it can’t and should not remain silent about the negative goings on like abuse, rape and murder of women in sport, whether these attacks occur outside of the sports realm or within the sports jurisdiction such as a tournament, coaching clinic, development event.

We must know that sport is not just about kicking balls, winning titles and trophies: it’s about the social component and positioning of sport in society.

Chairperson of the Guguletu-based Winnies Ladies Football Club, Jeffrey Qhuma, can’t believe that women footballers associated with the club have become victims of hate. “When Winnie Qhuma had the vision, about 20 years ago to establish Guguletu’s first women’s football club, we never thought we would be suffering such sadness. We formed the club to give teenage girls and women a chance to play sport. We wanted our women footballers to enjoy football, to realize their football talent and to do better things with their lives. Now we have to face this. Sihle Sikoji joined Winnies FC in 2008 and left after a few seasons, but we still honour her young life. Sihle is now the fourth player from our club who has become a victim of assault, abuse and hate. Winnies Ladies Football Club condemns all violence against our sportswomen”.

Several sports administrators and leaders were angered and spoke out against the senseless murder of 19 year old sportsgirl and footballer, Sihle Sikoji. These are some of the responses and tributes.

“How tragic that one of our talented young footballers was robbed at a tender age of 19 years, on the eve when Banyana Banyana was to play in the 2012 CAF AWC final. Let’s not allow another girl and sportsgirl to become part of criminal statistics, but rather support and stand up for our girls who are living in fear of hate crimes. My condolences to the bereaved family of Sihle Sikoji”, said Lutfeyah Abrahams, Provincial, Chairperson Women’s Football, Western Cape.

“Violence and crime against women must stop!”, said Western Province Cricket Association President, Beresford Williams. “We aspire to the creation of a country united in diversity. It is a goal to which we all aspire and it is the path to achieving great opportunities for all. As sports organizations we have to work together that will see us celebrating a nation which is non-racial, non-sexist and democratic.

“Together we must work and intensify the fight against violence and crime against women. We condemn violence and the loss of life through crime against women. We must stand-up, fight crime and the cause of crime as women deserve to be treated with respect, dignity and justice. Violence against women must be eradicated from ours society.

“We must ensure that we develop interventions, programmes and essentially mentors who deliver, to especially our impoverished communities, education and understanding of the components of non-racialism, non-sexism and toleration of differences. Violence against woman, under any circumstances, cannot and will never be acceptable.

“Sportsmen and women need to fight for change in the way to give everyone a fair chance to participating and building a brighter, bigger and better game for all.”

Santos Football Club, one of the few professional football clubs in South Africa who have over the years supported anti-abuse campaigns, also recorded their anger and disgust.

“Santos Football Club is outraged by the senseless killing of Sihle Sikoji. We express our sincere condolences to her family, friends and fellow football players at Winnies Ladies Football Club. The respect for life has once again been violated by this terrible deed. We hope that the murderers will soon be brought to book,” said Virginia Gabriels, Co-ordinator of Santos Football Club in a statement.

“My sense of shock and sadness at the brutal and senseless killing of Sihle Sikoji, will pale in comparison to the feelings of her many friends and relatives. It is desperately sad that young womyn are not allowed to be themselves and follow their sporting dreams .My deepest condolences to those who loved and cared about her. Any sporting goals that I achieve are diminished by the continued fear that black lesbians in particular experience.My thoughts are with you,” said 2012 Olympian and South African archer, Karen Hultzer

Cape Town’s champion women’s football club, Cape Town Roses also refused to remain silent. “We as Cape Town Roses women’s football club, based in Guguletu, would like to send our heartfelt condolences to Sihle’s family and Sihle’s women footballer teammates. You are in our prayers. Cape Town Roses does not support any abuse or violence against women and girls,” said Tumi Jonas, manager of Cape Town Roses.

Ntandokazi Magaga, secretary of Khayelitsha Crusaders Women’s Rugby Team said:We are saddened by the passing of our young and talented soccer player, Sihle. Our thoughts are with the family and friends.Tolerance implies a respect for another person, not because she is wrong or even because she is right, but because she is human. Every human being deserves to live her life the way she wants and be free in her own country.Human diversity makes tolerance more than a virtue; it makes it a requirement for survival. In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay the highest tribute to our fellow teammate, sports lady and dearest sister.”

International softballer Zelda Kutumela said: “To 19yrs old precious Sihle’s family, friends and team mates my deepest condolences. Jealousy and hatred made us lose our talented young player. While we strive to develop sports crime overtake us. Well I say to Sihle: They might killed the flesh but your spirit lives on. You are a real star now.”

A statement from the Centre For Gender Justice In Sport said:”Girls and women play sport to enjoy the game, not to become another victim or survivor of abuse and hate. However, it’s another horrendous act of violence against a sports girl. One stab, one life gone. This time, it’s the life of a 19 year old teenage girl. She’s black, a teenage girl, lives in a working class hood and a footballer. Her name is Sihle Sikoji and she was, at one time in her young life, a junior player for Winnies Ladies FC in Guguletu and a registered member of SAFA Cape Town and SAFA. This hate, abuse, assault of our sportsgirls and sportswomen is CONDEMNED! (Director:Cheryl Roberts).

Also adding her voice to the campaign against abuse of sportsgirls and women is sports administrator, Tracey Saunders who said: “I extend my deepest condolences and sympathy to the friends and family of Sihle.May you remember her with joy and find comfort in each other  through the time of grieving  that lies ahead.Until such time as ALL womyn are able to be who they are none of us can be free”.

Sport is no longer remaining silent!

Against Abuse Of Sportsgirls: Sport Can No Longer Remain Silent By Cheryl Roberts

13 Nov

South African sport should not be silent when sportswomen’s bodies and identities, especially teenage sports girls, are being abused, attacked and murdered, by men who assume they have the right to control women’s spaces and bodies.

Girls and women play sport to enjoy the game, not to become another victim or survivor of abuse and hate. However, it’s another horrendous act of violence against a sports girl. One stab, one life gone. This time, it’s the life of a 19 year old teenage girl. She’s black, a teenage girl, lives in a working class hood and a footballer.

Her name is Sihle Skotshi and she was, at one time in her young life, a junior player for Winnies Ladies FC in Guguletu and a registered member of SAFA Cape Town and SAFA

And the act of violence which claimed her young life was carried out by a thug male who demanded that his space, at the tavern ekasi, be frequented by people whom he wanted o be there and not by women, especially non-feminine women who did not portray the woman’s image as he deemed correct.

Abuse and violence against women and girls is rampant and widespread in South African society. Violence against women in sport and our sports girls is increasing big time, instead of decreasing big time. There have occurred too many deaths of innocent, defenceless sportswomen because of men who want to be in charge of what they term is male turf and the male domain.

And now a teenage girl who should have been playing football, having the ball and world at her feet, is already in heaven eternally, having lived just 19 years. Another horrendous act of violence against a sports girl and thousands of township living girls and women are living in fear, asking will they be next, when will this violence against their bodies, their sexuality, their identity, their being, be eliminated from society altogether.

This fear by the girls and women is real and honest. However much we empathise and sympathise, for those of us who don’t live in these spaces where the thugs rule open spaces as their turf, we don’t really know what fear the women encounter or face as daily and nightly challenges, because we don’t live there.

Some talk about the senseless murder and killing of ‘lesbians’ that is referred to as hate crime. I emphasise the horrendous and violent deaths of our sportswomen because several of the women including Eudy, Luleka, Zoliswa, Sihle (the latest victim) were all league football players, with their own identity, body structure and image.

Sportswomen have not, as a group representative, added their voice to public hate crime campaigns. At least three women footballers, Eudy Simelane and Zoliswa Nkonyana and Luleka Makiwane have been victims of hate attacks and did not survive. But it’s been civil society structures, outside of sport, that have spearheaded support and justice for the women footballers.

Most people, and certainly the majority of society, surely don’t agree with these senseless murders. Even if they occur outside of the victim’s home, in the tavern, in the road, on the sports field, the fact and law is that no man has the right to take out any woman because he doesn’t approve of her behaviour, sexual image or identity. And most of the women victims of hate, which occurs in the form of assault, rape, stabbings and murder, have been attacked and killed outside their family homes.

Sport can no longer remain silent as women’s bodies are wrongfully claimed and bludgeoned. Sport can no longer ignore these brutal killings of our sports girls and sportswomen. And no longer should sport respond as if this is a non-sport issue and just another lesbian challenge. Women of various sexualities engage in, participate in and consume sport, making up the sports paradigm of players, administrators, spectators.

Sport is not just about playing the game, about winning titles and medals. It’s about the social positing of people in society and everything associated with living in society. And that includes women and sexuality, women and image, women and identity.

These vicious, brutal attacks on women in sport and our sportswomen are a result of patriarchy and the arrogant assumption of heterosexism to assume that all should embrace patriarchy and heterosexuality. It is the assumption by men to believe, in their small minds, they have the ‘right’ to own and control women’s bodies.

This challenge is very deeply constructed with misrepresentations and false ownership of women’s bodies, image and identity. Its also negatively prevalent in a community like Mitchells Plain, where the young teenage girl footballers are discriminated against because they play football. These young girls in sport are under attack in their family homes and in some schools by ignorant, patriarchy-supporting teachers, both women and men teachers, who insist on defining the girls’ image, identity and body construction. Its a hood challenge, a South African, African and global challenge, and the most affected are girls from working class communities

Whilst it may seem, via media reports and writings and reflections on hate committed against lesbians that this is prevalent only amongst black women, these harmful behaviours of abusing non-heterosexual girls and women is also emerging in other communities, for instance in Mitchells Plain. The only difference is that a murder in other communities, outside of Black townships, has not occurred. But this abuse of sports girls, who do not embrace the feminine image, is very much gathering steam.

Sportswomen must find an organized voice, make it powerful and effective and challenge all that the system negates against them, whether it’s sexuality, financial allocation, male hegemony and officialdom.

South African sport must engage in a national campaign against all abuse and attacks against girls and women in sport. We must demand this speak out campaign and refuse to be silent and quiet, seemingly as if we don’t care about what happens to our women in sport, when they are not on the playing fields

(photo: By ZImage(photo by: Zanele Muholi)


Time To Legislate Against Gender Discrimination And Inequalities In Sport?

6 Nov

South Africa’s sports paradigm is filled with inequalities resulting from unequal distribution and allocation of our country’s financial resources, and the harshest of these inequalities are those affecting one’s class, social and gender positioning in sport.

With another women’s month having arrived yet again, when much more focus is spotlighted on women, before we are pushed along and shoved here and there, I use this opportunity yet again to call out against the gender imbalances which severely prohibit and impede development of South Africa’s girls and women as they go strive to develop through the sports pyramid.

Over the past twenty years, pressure, activism and gender inequality awareness has raised consciousness, but not enough is being done to ensue that our sportswomen are getting the best allocations and support, just like our sportsmen.

We have just come off another participation in an Olympic Games and a Paralympics Games.

For the average thinking sports consumer, those who don’t question gender constructs and imbalances in society, it appears that most of South Africa’s sportswomen ware useless, have no talent, and should not be competing on the international sports stage because they can’t win medals.

South Africa’s women Olympians and Paralympians have achieved just about enough of  what can be expected of them, when they compete amongst and with the world’s best women in sport, given the shortcuts and piecemeal hand outs here and there that they are given.

Those in control of power driving the South African sports network, and who are mostly men, do not consider women’s development in sport as much when they assist and provide for elite sportsmen to develop.

So who do the sportswomen turn to and to whom do they cry out. Ten years down the line, I don’t want to be writing about the gender inequalities and pleading for assistance. I want to celebrate and applaud a South African sports structure that does not discriminate against girls and women in sport.

The time has arrived, that we stop complaining, because we know the gender imbalances exist, we acknowledge the stressful situations under which our sportswomen are forced to participate in sport and we must refuse to accept this deficient terrain. Sports federations who organize and develop girls and women in sport from club to elite level, often cite the blame at the door of corporates who refuse to assist sportswomen, despite women’s buying power.

Government sports departments, under various Ministers and MEC’s have also recklessly and negligently treated women in sport, with some support and assistance here and there. And, despite this minimal and at times lack of support, our sportswomen still continue to believe in their spots talent and worth, and still work hard at training to achieve and make South Africa proud.  

And let me remind us that we should not dare compare our sportswomen to the successes of the Jamaican and USA women athletes, world class women swimmers and tennis players and achieving world champions and Olympic medalists when we send them out to compete with chains around them.

 Sports such as netball and football must set up national professional leagues for women, high performance sport must concentrate on women with exclusive funding for women, not just on an adhoc basis like its done one year before an Olympic Games, but over a consistent period, if we are to appreciate the talent of our sportswomen.

 Admittedly, despite the glaring inequalities in our sports paradigm, there exists no organized voice and activism to challenge the elite and powerful men who control and allocate the money. Somewhere and somehow this voice has got to emerge if we are intent on creating and maintaining opportunities for sports girls and sportswomen, especially, black, rural and working class women in sport. 

 Most importantly, we know the gender discrimination and inequalities exist and we have complained and continue to raise our individual voices against this. But we don’t want to spend or precious lives complaining. Now it’s up to government to deliver in the interest and protection of our sportswomen and legislate against gender inequality in sport.