Sports in Africa: Focus on Women

By Eze Chibuzor

At the end of the First World Brighton Conference on Women, Sports, and the Challenge of Change 1994, the African representatives created a taskforce. The aim was to ensure that full participation and equality was achieved in Africa. Fast forward to 2021, there has been no significant change in Women participation in the African Sports sector. According to a survey carried out by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), it was revealed that there is little to almost no organised sports activities for the girl child in countries like Lesotho, Malawi, Nigeria, and some others.

Sports in Africa is largely viewed as a “masculine activity”, such stereotypes make it even more difficult to encourage female involvement. Young female athletes on the continent face many hurdles such as poor sports facilities, discrimination, gender pay gap, lack of parental permission, and thus continues to hinder the progress of the women’s game. The value of the average girl child in many developing African communities is weighed by her ability to get married and bear children-a false belief held by most parents and guardians who see female participation in sports as a threat to their “usefulness” to society.

However, there remains a glimmer of hope in stories of several women who strived against all odds to make an impact in the female sports scene in Africa. One of such inspirations is the Captain of the Nigerian National Team, Four-time African Women’s Footballer of the Year winner, Asisat Oshoala. An immensely talented footballer in her own right, her journey to the top level in football wasn’t devoid of the barriers young female athletes so often face in Africa- “My parents were not supportive of my dreams when I was growing up” She said in an interview with WePlayStrong. But today she is a Pride of the Nation and an inspiration to many young female athletes.

📸: Asisat Oshoala

Generally, increased female participation in sports has proven to greatly benefit young female athletes physically and mentally as well as academically. Furthermore, Sports can be used as a tool to keep young girls away from a number of social vices which plague many developing African communities. Investing in Female Sports has a key role to play in boosting the economy of African communities. It also works to build interest and engagement more broadly from the grass-roots level to the elite levels of Women’s sport-which is good news for the continent.

Much work still needs to be done to bridge the huge gap in investment between Women’s sports and that of the men in order to provide equal sports opportunities for the girl child in Africa. Organizations like UN (United Nations) Women, Football Without Borders Kenya and a few others work tirelessly to change the narrative, challenge gender norms and ensure increased female involvement in the African Sports sector.

- Eze Chibuzor

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