South Africa Needs A Minister Of Women in Sport By Cheryl Roberts

27 Feb

It’s been written and spoken about, challenged and condemned. That’s the gender inequalities and discrimination in sport in South Africa. But what is being done to remove the inequalities and discrimination and to cancel the raw deal given to girls and women in sport in South Africa?

Yes, opportunities have been opened and created for girls and women to participate in sport, from grassroots platforms to elite levels. But this is not only too little; we also have the battles faced by teenage sports girls and young sportswomen to break into sports’ professional ranks.

So here’s the recommendation. South Africa has a bloated cabinet with sport ridiculously having two ministers. Since inception of the post-apartheid parliament in 1994 South Africa has only had men ministers of sport. Some years ago, two ministerial posts were announced to oversee and manage sport in South Africa. This costs a lot of money and expenditure! We must get some genuine benefit out of these ministers.

One of these posts needs to be for women in sport. Like education in SA has two ministers of education, one for basic and the other for higher education, sports needs a minister of women and sport. The responsibility of this cabinet minister will be to ensure 1) gender inequalities and discrimination are eliminated from the sports paradigm, 2) that class and money doesn’t impact negatively on girls participation in sport, 3) understand that race, sexual identity and colour discourses are very much part of the sports narratives and should not preclude, inhibit and exclude girls and women in sport and 4) white sportswoman supremacy and privilege in sport must be dismantled.

What we honestly and really need is for a cabinet minister to be conscious and woke, to have an intersectional thinking, to understand the gender paradigms in sport and to ensure that girls and women are protected, encouraged, supported and advanced in South African sport.

One black woman Olympic and world champion is not enough. A few world champions in some sports means we have the talent, we can do much better. Having numerous girls in sport events doesn’t altogether say the grassroots is a strong foundation. South Africa’s media coverage of women in sport has increased and sportswomen are getting more attention in some sports. But this is not what we are settling for! We detest responses here and there, some new competitions sometimes and a few more handouts here and there when it comes to sportswomen.

Patriarchy, male domination and control is rife and excels in South African sport. We want these ills and negatives dismantled and removed. We want a sports system that considers, notes and favours ALL genders in sport; not only male advancement and control.

South Africa’s controlling structures for sport in South Africa, that is Sport and Recreation South Africa (SRSA) and South African Sport Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) are not only heavily invested in the ‘sportsmen agenda’ but are heavily infested with thinking that advances men in sport and gives some meager handouts to women in sport.

But just how serious is SRSA and SASCOC about eliminating gender inequalities in sport and placing sportswomen as a priority gender? Action from within SRSA and SASCOC still doesn’t show much meaningful attempt to ensure, over a five and ten year programme of action and response, that women are going to be given critical attention and gender priority, that sportswomen will be adequately funded so they have the best opportunities to become world class and meet SASCOC’s stringent qualifying standards for Olympic events.

A minister/deputy minister of women in sport in South Africa will focus only on one gender and that is those who are not men. There will be a reasonable budget to fund this administration and all action and responsibility emanating from the office. The mindset of the minister of women in sport will be ONLY about girls and women in sport. Then again, this must not be an events-only response like getting girls and women to participate in sports activities and adding numbers for display purposes and showing this off as development. Structures looking after girls in sport must be consolidated and supported. Professional sportswomen leagues are urgently needed so SA’s sportswomen can compete as professionals and not part-timers in sport.

It’s imperative that this minister of women in sport has the critical thinking so vital for this responsibility. We don’t want a man who supports perpetuation of male hegemony and benefits from patriarchy and talks about giving sportswomen flowers as prizes in sport. We demand a human who understands intersectionality – that sportswomen struggles are linked with all struggles in society – knows the critical and imperative accountability of dismantling, tampering with and closing down male-domination of the South African sports network.



8cheryl roberts  in the rain forest in ghana

Cheryl Roberts (writer of the blog)

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