South Africa’s SportsWomen Must Protest Gender Inequalities In SA Sport By Cheryl Roberts

9 Nov

IMG_1408South Africa’s women in sport and sportswomen, have for decades, been given the crumbs of sport administration, funding and sponsorship and media allocation by those who control the sport industry and all its mechanics of operation. SA’s sportswomen have complained and spoken out against gender inequalities and discrimination. However, the voices are too few and too soft.

Who are the women in sport relying on to take them out of bondage? Surely not Minister of Sport, Fikile Mbalula? Neither the male-dominated SASCOC! So when are the sportswomen going to lead their ‘women in sport against gender inequalities and discrimination’ resistance and protests?

This spectacular, legitimate and authentic student protests around South Africa should be motivation and inspiration for the millions of women, those women who consume sport either as spectators and supporters or participants in organized sport, to engage in protest action and call out gender discrimination in sport.

Sportswomen the world over are increasing their voice against gender inequality in sport, against the crumbs dished out to sportswomen, against the battles encountered by women in sport while men in sport receive huge sponsorship payouts, salaries and payouts.

Over the past two months, at last three South African women’s sports teams have qualified for the Rio Olympics. They are the national women’s rugby sevens team, women’s football team (Banyana Banyana) and the women’s hockey team. It’s not been an easy road to Olympic qualification for these women’s sports teams who’ve had to face uphill challenges. It’s shocking to note that no national professional league, allowing the women players to participate in sport full-time and as professionals, exists for women’s football, rugby and hockey and for all other sportswomen.

It’s disgusting that some of the national players in hockey had to personally pay their international traveling costs to represent their country. Some professional athletes, like javelin thrower Sunette Viljoen complain about the inadequate money received from SASCOC’s Operation Excellence. Women’s sports like softball don’t have sponsorship.

It’s a litany of gender biases and discrimination against women in sport. Yes, some funding and sponsorship allocation is made available to develop and assist women in sport. But the money and assistance is too little.

The time is ripe for sportswomen to protest, to engage in protest action that will challenge government sports departments and corporate for their neglect of sportswomen’s development from grassroots to international levels of sport participation.

After this year’s women’s football world cup in Canada, the Australian women’s football team protested against their meagre salaries and bonuses. The Ghanaian women’s football team also protested after winning the gold medal at the All Africa Games. The Black Queens refused to leave their hotel until their performance salaries and bonuses were received.

South Africa’s sportswomen must not only speak out much more; they must scream and shout. They must use their women’s power and march and protest and resist and call out male hegemony of sport in SA. Most imperatively, they must not accept a few handouts here and there and go quiet when some money is received. They must be conscious of their social positioning in sport, about who is controlling them and their participation in sport. Also important, is to watch out for women who have attained leadership positions in sport but go quiet when they get international trips and meeting attendance bonuses and don’t challenge the inequalities in SA sport.

All women’s cabals in sport must be smashed! We must ask why some women are allowed to hold positions for ten years and longer, yet contribute very little to challenging male power in sport?

Oppressed, black women have shown us the power of women’s resistance. The legacies are there to inspire protest action when we know a society is discriminating against women. Women have power! Women must also have a critical consciousness which won’t allow their women’s beings to be oppressed, controlled and discriminated against by men and some elite women.

Resistance and protest action is what is needed to catapult sportswomen into action against a male controlled and oppressive sports system. Women have got to use their power and amplify their call for women in sport and sportswomen to no more be victims of gender inequalities and gender handouts here and there in sport.

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