Leader steps up for women

2015-12-08 10:25
Caroline Peters is the founder of Nantes Athletics Club in Athlone.

Caroline Peters is the founder of Nantes Athletics Club in Athlone. (Rashied Isaacs)

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The Nantes Athletics Club in Athlone has taken considerable strides to become one of the foremost community health clubs, changing perceptions about health while reclaiming the streets from gangs and drug dealers.
The club’s founder, Caroline Peters, has always been closely involved with the Bridgetown community, with her late father being one of the first councillors for ward 49.
She started the club last year after making a lifestyle change herself when she weighed 113kg in 2011. She has since completed multiple ultra-marathons, such as the Two Oceans marathon and Comrades.
“I have always been in sport, but with netball, it was about what do the girls play in the townships. I started Dolphins netball club in the Mitchell’s Plain netball union with my sister and niece 23 years ago,” she says. “From netball we moved to athletics.”
Peters is also a fervent gender activist and has been working at the Saartjie Baartman Centre in Manenberg since its inception in 1999.
“When I first came into athletics, I was shocked to find that the leadership was almost all male. Working at the Saartjie Baartman Centre, we forget that the world out there is not gender-sensitive yet. We are still a long way from being sensitive to having women in leadership roles.”
The first time she was elected to the WPA committee and given a portfolio, the rest of the committee thought it fit to give her the portfolio of secretary, which offended Peters deeply.
“I lead differently. Often you find that women come into leadership positions and behave like males. They lead the way a male would have led and that marginalises women as well, whereas I feel that I lead like a mother and am more led by emotions,” she says.
When she started the club, she intentionally installed an all-women executive committee.
“When we started, we were a group of women and two guys. I purposefully wanted a women’s only executive, because I wanted to see the women develop into the leadership. However, with lots of trial and error, I found that I needed to include the men into the group, because it almost felt like there was too much feistiness and it was holding us back a bit. So about six months down the line, we brought men into the executive committee to bring some balance to the leadership.
“When we went out for our first night of running, there were 12 of us. Now we are a club of almost 400 members. We have grown in leaps and bounds.”

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