Photo Credit: FAZ Facebook Page
[Lusaka] The Women’s National Football Team participation in the Africa Championships in Windhoek, Namibia is one of the best moments for women in football in Zambia. This is an indicator of the progress that we are making as a Country in the development of women’s football.
It is common knowledge that the participation of women in sport in Zambia is disproportionately low and from our work over the years, we have learnt that contributing factors include limited resources, gender bias and negative stereotypes.
On behalf of my organisation NOWSPAR, I wish to let you know that we are deeply disappointed that these young women’s patriotism is being brought into question when all they have done is diligently serve our Country and they have spoken up for their rights as is their duty and right.
Our understanding of Patriotism is love and commitment to one’s Country. As you are fully aware, the Women’s National Football Team is one of the most underfunded sports teams in our Country, among other conditions, they have persevered and are doing relatively well. Their engagement in football is for the love of the game, the desire to serve their country and to be the best athletes they can be. All these are indicators of patriotism.
As you are aware, our Football Association has a commitment to the development and fair treatment of women in football. Our own National Sports Policy calls for the addressing of barriers that affect women’s participation in sport, well, this is one of them.
When athletes participate in sport on national duty, it is the responsibility of the Association to ensure they have all their needs met; adequate equipment, time, technical support and allowances.
We are all aware that the sport sector still has resource challenges and limitations. With that in mind, there ought to be a relationship of trust between the athletes and the Association, and room to communicate appropriately and in time to ensure any challenges by either party are addressed in time.
We must treat our women’s national team with dignity and respect, and having young women have to struggle to get the recognition and support they need is unfair. Therefore, adequate preparations and considerations for their welfare must be made within the available resources that the Association has.
We urge stakeholders including the Football Association of Zambia, the National Sports Council, the Ministry of Sport and Youth, Sponsors, Media and Football Fans to:
- speak out on the importance of fair treatment of athletes by all Sport Associations regardless of their sex, a National Team is a National Team despite their sex
- ask the Football Association as a beneficiary of public funds to account for how these resources benefit women
- highlight the plight of the women’s football teams in this context and how your Ministry and other stakeholders can contribute now and in the long term
- inquire into the Policy frameworks that can facilitate adequate resource allocation to women in sport programs
- take lead in promoting women’s participation in sport as part of national target of 80% of the population accessing a sport of their choice as established in Zambia’s Vision 2030
We are proud of the Women’s National Football Team; by speaking up when something is not right, they are contributing to bringing about a change that will benefit not just them but future footballers and other athletes as well. That, Hon. Minister, is an act of patriotism.
So, as we celebrate Zambia’s Golden Jubilee, our wish is to see the Women’s National Football Team valued and respected as much as the Men’s National Football Team.