From 19 to 21 September 2016, under the aegis of the IOC and the Zambian NOC, a forum aimed at training women working in African National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and National Federations to excel as leaders in sports was held in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, with 65 participants from 42 countries taking part.
This was the third time that this kind of forum combined with training was organised in Africa for women in sports leadership.
The Forum, opened by Zambian Vice-President Mrs Inonge Mutukwa Wina, was in line with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) policy to further enhance the presence of women in decision-making bodies within the Olympic Movement. In this period of the electoral cycle, it aimed to prepare large numbers of women in middle and senior management positions in National Olympic Committees (NOCs), National Federations and other international organisations to successfully stand for election. The Forum also aimed to provide key tips for female sports leaders as well as give them the tools and council to enable them in turn to become mentors for other women seeking to work in sports.
As Inonge Mutukwa Wina observed: “Women have continued to lag behind and are sidelined in human development, including sport, and yet sport plays an important role in the socio-economic development of our life. Women and girls’ participation in sport to this day is still influenced by culture, tradition and religion, which hinder them from participating fully despite representing a bigger population of the world. Especially in Africa, women remain under-represented in key decision-making positions, which is unacceptable in the 21st century.”
During the three-day Forum, the participants went through intensive coaching and training combined with discussions and mentoring sessions with the help of a team of professional trainers. Male and female leaders (presidents and secretaries general) in the region participated in the Forum to support and provide advice to the participants. They also contributed to the mentoring sessions and discussions related to gender differences.
In a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, the participants shared their views and helped to think of solutions which could help to change things sooner rather than later. The men and women attending talked about the perception of behaviour linked to relations between men and women. For their part, the women concluded that they needed a more strategic approach in their way of working, with greater self-confidence and solidarity, helping other women, particularly younger women, to develop and grow, by serving as mentors or sponsors. They also agreed on the need to stay connected, and to help achieve this created a Facebook page for their group.
The participants also had the chance to visit the Olympic Youth Development Centre, opened in Lusaka in 2010. The first multi-sports facility of its kind, the Centre welcomes an average of 10,000 youngsters, who practise sport on a regular basis and participate in cultural, educational and social development programmes.
Speaking on behalf of the organisers, IOC honorary member Patrick S. Chamunda explained: “Allowing women to take up leadership positions in sport is not just a luxury! It is not a nice to have! Indeed, smart leaders understand that gender equality is not a problem to solve, but an opportunity to seize. It is a fact; having women on the board boosts the bottom-line! We have the best example in Zambia, with two women leading our NOC. I can tell you, Zambia is lucky to have Miriam and Hazel as President and Secretary General. Since they have been at the helm of the NOC, they have demonstrated that women’s leadership can be as effective and efficient as male leadership. Indeed, they have managed to bring harmony and stability to the NOC.”
The Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA) was represented at the forum by the fourth Vice-President Matlohang Moiloa-Ramogopo and its Secretary-General Tomas Ganda Sithole.
In conclusion, the participants took the decision to pursue concrete action for their own development or that of other women. They also urged this kind of forum, combined with ongoing training, should become a permanent fixture. They all said that they had greatly boosted their self-confidence thanks to this successful three-day event.
A similar forum for women in the Americas will be held from 28 to 30 November this year in Lima, Peru.