They are there 24/7, but women are still unheralded in SA sport

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It is very encouraging for the foundation that the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) last month appointed Nozipho Jafta as its new CEO. Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images
It is very encouraging for the foundation that the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) last month appointed Nozipho Jafta as its new CEO. Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images


They are there in our lives. We laugh with them. We partner with them. Without them, life would be empty. They add value to our lives at home and work. They are admired for their strength of character, commitment, caring, perseverance, courage and love.

Who are these people? They are women. In all their various forms.

They are wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, grandmothers and many more things if we were to itemise what they do every day.

In the words of renowned US poet and activist Maya Angelou, these are phenomenal women. But in the bigger scheme of things, women are absent from sport leadership.

Although they are capable people, women who nurture families and ensure that no matter what, there is food on the table and a roof over the heads of their families, they remain almost insignificant in the world of sport.

Is it because there are more men in sport governance structures, coaching, management and participation that the numbers are always stacked against them?

Where is the consciousness that is needed to tilt the scale in the direction of women who are capable of leading sport organisations?

We have seen that there are many women who have ascended higher levels of careers in the public and private sectors.

The SA Mint, which produces coins for the SA Reserve Bank, has Honey Mamabolo as its managing director – and this is just one example.

There are many phenomenally successful organisations that are headed by women. PwC’s report on remuneration trends last year shows that only 13% of South African women are executive directors (including in positions as CEO and chief financial officer) – which is just 81 women.

READ: The future of South African coaching

The status quo remains, despite the passing of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution in 1996, the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Discrimination Act and many other conventions and declarations on gender equality that government is a signatory to. The latter is a discussion for another day.

In the middle of this lack of progress in ensuring real gender equality in South African institutions, in came the SA Women and Sport Foundation.

The foundation has been in existence since 2009 and has occupied the space that Women and Sport SA left vacant in 1997 when there was a change of leadership in the national department of sport.

The foundation has been the voice of appeal and reason – a true advocate for the participation of women and girls at all levels of sport in South Africa. The foundation is guided by the 2014 Brighton plus Helsinki Declaration on Women and Sports that focuses on the principles to:

  • Promote equity and equality in society and in sport;
  • Ensure access to facilities, school and youth sport and developing participation;
  • Ensure leadership in sport;
  • Ensure education, training and development;
  • Ensure high performance in sport, sport information, research and resources; and
  • Ensure domestic and international cooperation in sport.

All these are focused on seeing women and girls participate in sport.

Therefore, the programmes and activities of the foundation have deliberately focused on education and training; research on women’s sport issues; advocacy (and campaigning); mobilisation of women to stand united as they strive for representation in sport governance, coaching, leadership, management and physical participation; international cooperation; and mentoring.

The foundation’s advantage is that it is not a governing body or a federation.

It is an organisation that cuts across all sports and has created a platform for all women to meet to discuss issues of concern and their vision for sport in South Africa.

It has successfully penetrated the public space through the hosting of the national advocacy conference since 2016. Advocacy training workshops were originally offered in person and, more recently, virtually.

Women leadership training was offered in partnership with the Women’s Sport Leadership Academy, which is hosted by the University of Winchester and the Anita White Foundation in the UK.

The foundation has also sought partnerships with like-minded organisations such as Gender Links, the SA Human Rights Commission, the Commission for Gender Equality and broadcaster SuperSport – all in search of identifying avenues through which women in sport can be advanced.

READ: Women football coaches’ stars are rising

The foundation’s mission is to get all South Africans to think deeply about gender equity and equality when there are opportunities to appoint or elect women to sport governing structures and the executive level at sport federations.

Therefore, it is very encouraging for the foundation that the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) last month appointed Nozipho Jafta as its new CEO.

That’s all well and good, but she must be respected and allowed to lead the organisation. The Sascoc board and other role players must listen to her ideas and advice.

Ravele is chairperson and founder of the SA Women and Sport Foundation.


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