For too long and for overdue years and decades, have sportswomen and sports girls, especially black and working class women and girls, been underfunded in sport in South Africa. Money and funding allocated to South Africa’s women in sport and sportswomen is too little, not enough and severely restrictive when it come to participation of girls and women in sport.
Because of unequal sports funding over the years, its the sportsmen who have been given much more and plentiful opportunities for their participation in sport and develop their sports prowess. Sportswomen have had to struggle, battle, hustle everyday and always.
This unequal sports distribution and funding has been and is consistently called out by many sports officials, gender activists and the sportswomen themselves who suffer because of this despicable inequality in sport. Sportswomen have had to watch sportsmen being heavily and lucratively funded, playing in national professional leagues, having all their expenses covered while the women in sport, especially the elite sportswomen must hold down jobs to maintain an income to keep surviving and put in the training hours after work and in between studies.
Admittedly, through pressure mounted and calls for women in sport to be given deserving deals in sport, more attention is being placed on girls and women’s participation in sort. At national level, elite sportswomen are being assisted by SASCOC and SRSA to compete internationally. But this assistance is is not enough and doesn’t do much to eliminate gender inequalities in the sports paradigm.
But this assistance is all too little and not adequate. Its not that sportswomen are ungrateful. It’s not enough. Sportswomen are not greedy. They are demanding their rightful and correct funding in a country which looks after its sportsmen with more than generous financial handouts.
In the national budgets drawn up by national sports federations, as the marginalised and disadvantaged, women in sport are not given special priority or attention. They are given some money here and there with a special focus during August, which is South Africa’s women’s month. But for 11 months of the year sports women and sports girls are sandwiched in between all other sports activities which must be presented and carried out by the sports federation with their nominal funding received from Lotto and SRSA.
A national sports budget which prioritises and exclusively develops girls and women in sport, is what is needed and must be implemented. Minister of Sport, Fikile Mbalula is calling out what he says is ‘slow transformation progress’. What he must do is call out the gender inequalities, discrepancies and unjust funding in South African sport.
During his term in office Mbalula has initiated some sports women events with a focus on women in sport. But these are ad hoc responses. We want a sustained response and this must flow out of a national sports budget with provincial sports budgets, solely developing girls and women in sport.
What will a national sports budget do for women in sport? Most importantly, this budget will be focused only on girls and women in sport; the neglected, marginalised and under funded gender in sport. It will put put positive pressure on sports federations to prioritise girls and women’s participation in sport and improve and advance their participation. From the grassroots to elite, international participation in sport, girls and women must be supported out of this national sports budget.
However, this national sports budget cannot improve girls and women’s participation and make meaningful impact on their participation in sport if this budget is mediocre with limited funds and financial resources. This budget has got to be as big as those supporting men’s rugby, men’s football and men’s cricket. And we all know these budgets and funding allocations are big and lucrative, allowing men and boys lots of available funds to be assisted in sports development.
South Africa’s girls and women are still struggling to participate in sport. At community and grassroots level, its the volunteer sports officials who assist the girls development in sport. Sometime local and provincial governments of sport assist here and there, but not all of working class sport. Girls are missing out on opportunities to participate and in turn, this impacts on the talent coming through the sports pyramid.
This marginalisation of girls and women in sport because of unequal and discriminatory funding must be stopped. A well-supported national sports budget for women and girls in sport should go a long way in rectifying the gender imbalances and disparities.