Guest speaker and member of the German Parliament Ms Dagmar Freitag echoed the words of former South African president Nelson Mandela in her address at the 'Women and Successful Leadership in Sports' seminar hosted by the Maties Sport's Centre for Sports Leadership.
“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does," she said.
The seminar was marked by critical engagement discussing personal and political perspectives of the inequalities faced in internal, local, national and international structures.
Panellists Ms Ilhaam Groenewald, Chief Director: Maties Sport, Ms Anroux Marais, Western Cape Minister of Cultural Affairs and Sport, and Ms Freitag shared their experiences and highlighted the changes women have given rise to at different levels, raising the question of what else ought to be done.
The common sentiment was that women want and deserve more. For far too long, women have been limited to occupying positions of little decision-making power in the sporting world, often positioned as secretaries and if lucky, a vice position. This does not match their capabilities, nor their qualifications and it does not speak to the importance of representation.
Women and girls make up 51.2% of the South African population and their participation in sport continues to grow. Despite this, women and girls receive little support across the board in the form of contracts, job opportunities, exposure, and media coverage. The number of women in senior sport leadership positions should, at the very least, reflect the growing participation of women and girls.
The panel mentioned that it is predominantly men who take up these positions. For the women who are present, daily tasks and operations are turned into challenges as a result of the undermining attitude of and lack of support from their counterparts. Women in sport need the support of men through allyship and pushing boundaries in the spaces they occupy. Men were strongly encouraged to take initiative to devise plans and strategies on how to do this. Additionally, Mrs Groenewald emphasised that research for impact, purpose and collaborative partnerships may ease the transformation process.
In summary: Thirty million South African women and girls call for lasting and sustainable gender equality. A diverse presence of women and support on all levels is required to inspire girls. Sexism and gender inequality are nothing new in these areas of our society, but it is up to everyone, in their own capacity, to make it a thing of the past. The panel insisted that giving up is not an option.
“We have the responsibility as sports leaders and administrators to come together and talk about the issues that we are struggling with in our society," said Mrs Groenewald.
Geared towards a better society and aligned with the values of Stellenbosch University, Maties Sport's Centre for Sports Leadership recognises the importance of educating communities in an attempt to inspire, grow and recruit supporters for women and girls.