EXCLUSIVE: Tendai Mtwarira pushing for equal recognition and pay for women’s sports in Africa

Tendai Mtwarira of South Africa during the 2016 Castle Lager Rugby Championship game between South Africa and Australia at Loftus Versveld, Pretoria

As an ambassador of the One More Fan campaign, Springbok legend Tendai Mtwarira is pushing for equal recognition and remuneration for women’s sport in Africa. Picture: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Published Feb 22, 2023


Johannesburg - On a balmy Saturday night, cushioned in the ridge of Houghton, Johannesburg, Springbok legend Tendai Mtwarira watched the Proteas women keenly between the fanfare of his presence from all those in attendance.

On the night the senior South African women’s national team failed to beat their Australian counterparts in their ICC World T20 Cup group encounter, raising the real threat of early elimination from the tournament hosted in the country.

Much to the relief of everyone, and you suspect Mtwarira as well, the subsequent loss of Sri Lanka against New Zealand; and then SA’s testing 10-wicket victory over Bangladesh on Tuesday night, has ensured that the Proteas have progressed to the semi-finals.

There, they will face the might of England on Friday at 3pm.

The Beast, who is now an ambassador of the One More Fan campaign - initiated by the sponsors of the Proteas women, Momentum – will have appreciated the effort and determination of the team to reach an important milestone.

After all, that is the purpose of the initiative he has signed on to – celebrating women’s success in sport, pushing for greater equality and building sustainable pipelines from development levels into the professional ranks. For Mtwarira, however, it goes deeper than such superficial considerations.

Beast said: “I’m a big fan of women’s sport in general.

“I want to be an advocate for women’s and girl’s sport because I believe women deserve equal recognition and remuneration. They put the same amount of work in, if not more, and even more sacrifices.

“I have a daughter and for me, my little girl is probably going to play sport and I want her to get the best in her career, and in her life.”

Mtwarira hopes to help achieve this through his foundation, which is built on a mandate of equality and targets developing several sporting codes at school level, as well as academic pursuits, across Africa.

“Grassroots are important,” Mtwarira said, explaining his world view of how women’s sport can be aided at a senior level. He referred to his first love, rugby, but believes that the same framework could be applied elsewhere.

“If you really want to see the results at the top, you must start at grassroots level. There needs to be more investment done in women’s rugby.

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“It was awesome to see them play at the world cup last year. This is the start of their road, of their journey to improve and get better. If grassroots get more backing from SA Rugby and large corporates, women’s rugby will be in a better space.

“It is the same with women’s cricket – there needs to be more investments and more time given from grassroots to give young women the tools to become stars of their game …

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“I believe most needs start at the government level,” he added, “and supporting more sporting codes for girls at schools, so that they can build that mental strength, that resilience.

“It takes time. I started playing rugby when I was nine and I learnt so much through playing other schools and it made me grow,” he concluded.


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