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Why is SA’s women’s football team, Banyana Banyana, not given the same support as Bafana Bafana? Why does SA not have a professional women’s football league and, last, why are female football players paid less than their male counterparts?
From October 28 to November 11, Banyana Banyana will take part in the African Women’s Championships that will be hosted by Equatorial Guinea. They are the only southern African women’s soccer team participating at the tournament, having recently come back from the London Olympics.
Sport is business and a profession. It has become an economic activity for sports team owners and sportsmena and women.
Authorities should bear in mind that sports contribute to economic growth of any country, at both national and individual levels. This means that denying women full support and participation in sports is equivalent to denying them full participation in an economic activity.
For southern African countries, denying women a fair opportunity or underpaying them is a violation of their economic rights, contrary to the 2008 SADC Protocol on Gender and Development that stresses the importance of women’s economic empowerment.
A June 2012 SA Women Football Association’s (Safwa) case with the South African Football Association (Safa) proves how patriarchy deters sportswomen.
Safwa lodged a complaint with the Commission for Gender Equality regarding gender disparities at Safa, the soccer governing body. Among other things, Safwa called on Safa to address the discrepancy in the pay grade of women soccer players to match that of their male counterparts, and a fair representation of women in Safa’s leadership.
Responding to the complaint, Safa spokesman Dominic Chimhavi said it was “unrealistic” to put women and men soccer players on a par. “Women’s soccer is amateur, you can’t compare the two. Men’s soccer is a multimillion-rand industry that draws big crowds and sponsorship. This is not just the case in soccer, but across all sporting codes.”
The commission’s investigations found a huge disparity in funding for women’s football – both within Safa’s own budget and the sourcing of sponsorship for women’s football. Due to funding challenges, SA does not have a professional women’s football league.
On the contrary, Bafana Bafana continues to receive much publicity and support and yet the team hasn’t delivered in crucial competitive matches. The team recently failed to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations 2013 and will only participate in the competition because the country will host the tournament just as it did in the 2010 World Cup.
As the AWC draws near, society needs to look into sport and how the field can be more accommodating to women. According to media reports, the female national soccer team of Nigeria, ranked number one in Africa, have been a dominant force in African women’s football for almost two decades.
Is there a secret behind the Falcons’ success? Yes.
The Nigerian Football Federation continues to put in place measures to promote women’s football. The country’s football governing body allocates a quota to women and they are part of the decision-making process. This has enhanced the team’s success and the Falcons continue performing better.
The underrepresentation of women in sports disciplines across the globe demonstrates men’s attitudes to women. As much as men have dominated most sporting activities for a long time, the time has come for women in sports to be given attention and resources.
It is high time the media begins to set the agenda by featuring women in sports on the front-back pages of their publications.
* Daud Kayisi is the gender and media diversity centre officer at Gender Links