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Minister Xasa wants everyone to have a sporting chance

Women often have to double their efforts to prove that they are capable of

doing things that were traditionally meant for men. When it comes to sport, this is no different. With August being Women’s Month, PSM spoke to Minister of Sport and Recreation Tokozile Xasa, who says patriarchy remains a major issue in South Africa.

She said the support that women in sport get at the moment is nowhere near where it should be. However, she acknowledged that there has been gradual improvement, thanks to the 2011 Transformation Charter which seeks to provide equitable access and participation opportunities in all areas and at all levels of sport, irrespective of gender.

“We not only expect women to compete but also to be active in sport administration. We want to see female coaches and female administrators in lead- ership positions of the federations so that when decisions are made, women’s issues are taken into consideration,” the Minister said.

She added that it is important to promote sporting codes that are not big in South Africa, like volley-ball, while continuing to support those that have a big fan base.

Support for women

The Minister is also concerned that sporting events that feature women only do not receive adequate media coverage. This contributes to the lack of societal support for women in sport, she believes.

“For instance, Banyana Banyana has been doing very well but they do not get as much coverage as men’s soccer teams. Bafana Bafana is not doing that well but they always get coverage,” she noted. The Minister said that while each sports federation is part of the department’s transformation programme, better monitoring is needed.

To address this, the depart- ment is developing a “women in sport” policy. A team has been established by the department to work on completing a draft by December and the Minister hopes everything will be finalised by the end of the current financial year so that implementation can start soon thereafter.

Minister Xasa said the idea is to arrive at a point where there are professional teams of women and men in all sports.“For instance, for every professional soccer team that plays in a league, there should be a team of women at the same level,” she explained.

The Minister said sport development is a departmental priority and explained that transformation must be cemented at school level. She encouraged more women to consider careers in sport, saying it is no longer just about playing games but instead offers professional career opportunities. “Women can make a living in sport, not just as athletes but as administrators, coaches and trainers. The success of our teams and the high-performance programmes in place have seen many young women getting better equity op- portunities,” she said.

Benefits of sport

Sport and recreation helps promote social cohesion and national building, Minister Xasa noted.

“One of our strategic goals is to ensure that all citizens irrespective of gender and race have access to sport and recreation activities, so that there is a 10 percent increase in sport and recreation participation by all citizens in selected activities come 2020,” said the Minister.

Minister Xasa added that while not all women will be able to have a sports career, their participation is still important for them to stay healthy and for social cohesion, which is outlined as one of the imperatives of the National Development Plan.

Minister Xasa with the Gauteng Jaguars at the final of the Brutal Fruit National Netball League.

“Women go through a lot. Some of them lose their spouses and face many challenges but if they participate in sport, they are able to decrease their stress levels and have fun together,” she said.

The Minister said this does not only go for women but for everyone, including children, as it is im- portant to keep fit and stay healthy. She added that she was recently inspired when she was in Limpopo at a sport facility handover to see women aged between 60 and 84 taking part in a soccer match. “This is part of our key deliverables that encourages a healthy lifestyle across all ages. We have the “I Choose to be Active” campaign which also includes move for health and the Golden Games as one of its pillars. These activities also place emphasis on active ageing.”

The Minister pointed out that younger women also need to explore and nurture their sporting talents.“If women support and take part in sport, the sport industry will take them more seriously. We need to come together. When the current leaders of federations or sporting bodies see women's concerted efforts, they will then have no choice but to listen to us,” she said.

Future plans

Over and above developing a “women in sport” policy, the Minister said transformation continues to be part of the department’s agenda moving forward, as sport is a great unifier.

She added that sport infrastructure needs to be improved to facilitate more opportunities for women. The Minister explained that the department will be rolling out 60 more facilities in the 2018/19 financial year to improve access to sport and recreation facilities.

The department is working with key stakeholders with regard to the ringfenced Municipal Infrastructure Grant to ensure that there is more sport infrastructure development in the future.

As a public representative and servant of the people, the Minister said she is entrusted with bringing out the power of sport as advocated by Tata Nelson Mandela, whose centenary is currently being celebrated.

“My focus will be on transformation, school sport, women in sport and infrastructure development.” She added that the department is focused on ensuring that the sport and recreation sector is adequately transformed and that selected national federations achieve

their transformation commitments by 2020. This transformation process is being monitored by an independent body called the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) which recently released the fifth EPG report.

With regard to the Thuma Mina campaign, the Minister said the department’s “I Choose to be Active” campaign focuses on the pillars of active citizenry. This campaign encourages South Africans to remain active and prevent diseases such as heart attacks and strokes and to prevent obesity.

Some of the department’s events that are part of the campaign include the Big Walk which attracts over 25 000 participants and the National Recreation Day event which encourages teveryone to take part in active recreation.

“Our ’I Choose to be Active‘ campaign also encourages mass participation and highlights active recreation. We have identified our President Cyril Ramaphosa to be the champion of this campaign as we reach out to community leaders to work with us in using the power of sport to unite people across all ages and to promote ac- tive citizenry,” the Minister said.

While there is still a lot to be done to improve the quality of sport in South Africa, the Minister and her department are working hard to address inadequacies and disparities.

Minister Xasa believes there is much to celebrate in sport, particularly the Springboks’ performance under the leadership of Siya Kolisi, Banyana qualifying for the African Cup of Nations and the tennis play- ers who excelled at Wimbledon.

The Minister is determined to ensure that South African sport continues to triumph.

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