Participation in National Sport Association Leadership Still Unequal: Survey Reveals

Results of a survey conducted in November 2010 by  the National Organisation for Women in Sport Physical Activity and Recreation (NOWSPAR) and released today shows that women participation in National Sport Association Boards in Zambia is still very low. The survey found that the situation has not changed much over the last two years when A National Sports Council of Zambia assessment found participation of women in boards at about 5% in 2008.  This is because some Associations have the same executive committees they had two years ago, and those that have changed still elected mostly men onto their committees.

From the 20 Associations surveyed, it was found that the overall participation was 43 females out of 169 board members, representing 25% participation. The survey found that only one (1) of these 43 women is President of their Association- President of the Netball Association of Zambia. This is because Netball has developed over the years as a sport for women. Of the 43 females on Boards, only 2 are General Secretaries, these are in the Zambia Amateur Swimming Union and the Netball Association of Zambia. This means women are participating in other positions such as Committee Members, or deputy secretaries.

The current situation reveals the tokenism that is going on in National Sport Associations: the average participation of women on boards is 2 females in each board. Only 5 Associations have 50% or more of their boards made of females, these are the National Associations for Squash, Baseball, Deaf, Netball and Swimming.  Two (2) Associations of the 20 participants do not have any females on their boards these are the Pool and Cycling Associations.

As the world commemorate Human Rights Day,10th December, it becomes more visible that women’s right to equal participation in public life and in sport is still not a reality; neither are the aspirations of the SADC protocol and MDG on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment which urge countries to act towards 50% participation of women in leadership.

In sport, leadership is critical to addressing the gender based challenges women and girls face in sport including harassment and abuse. With gender sensitive leaders, National Associations would be more diligent in policy and programme interventions that provide a safe environment for girls and women’s participation.

NOWSPAR recommends a more pragmatic approach which rewards efforts and achievement towards gender equality on the boards, practically the government and the corporate sector can provide bigger grants to sports boards that have more women than those that have less or none at all.

However, for this to succeed in the long term, we must be careful to ensure women are not mere rubber stamps, “We must cultivate a generation of women who have vision and integrity, women who are sensitive to gender issues, who will have a purpose to achieve when they take up leadership positions – advocating for equal opportunities, empowerment of women and girls in sport,” stated Ms. Matilda, Executive Director of NOWSPAR.

The survey findings are shared with the International Working Group on Women and Sport (IWG) to feed into the Sydney Score Board- the Score board ( is a legacy of the 5th World Conference on Women and Sport and is a project to track participation of women in sport leadership across the world. NOWSPAR is a member of the IWG Alliance.

Through the She Leads Campaign NOWSPAR engages women in sport leadership and raises awareness about the situation of women in sport in leadership. She Leads is part of the Every Body Matters Programme of NOWSPAR.

NOWSPAR conducts research and disseminates its findings to address the needs of women and girls in sport, to promote dialogue and inform policy formulation at national and institutional levels. NOWSPAR’s research has been supported by the Norwergian Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Confederation of Sport (NIF) as part of the Every Body Matters Programme.