The African Union Sports Council (AUSC) Region 5 marked International Women’s Day by hosting a webinar on Monday 8 March 2021. The Webinar, held under the global theme: “Women in Leadership; Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world” was graced by the Chairperson of the Region 5 Council of Ministers and the Minister of Sport of Kingdom of Lesotho, Hon. Likeleli Tampane. The Webinar was one of the several Region 5 initiatives lined up for the month of March 2021 in an effort to increase awareness on girls and women empowerment in sport and in recognition of their significant role in sport and society.
The Webinar was meant to celebrate women whose role has been significant both in society and in the frontline during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was meant to celebrate the gallantry of the women and girls who have remained resolute and tenacious in keeping their families, business and nations functional in the wake of a deadly pandemic that has wreaked havoc globally for over one year. The webinar was also meant to celebrate the women and girls in sport who have borne the most brutal brunt of the pandemic as they were affected socially, economically and emotionally by the halting of all sporting activities worldwide and notably in the region.
Women remain marginalized in sport in general and in leadership positions in particular. This gender-based discrimination has resulted in women enjoying limited opportunities to participate in sport and in leadership roles. The majority of women remain impoverished as they are not economically empowered and are segregated against in some sectors of society including in sport.
The Webinar drew participants from the African Union (AU), Regional Anti-Doping Organisation (RADO), African Women in Sport Association (AWISA) and other key Region 5 partners.
In their statement, the African Union, represented by Ms Lina Kessy, Senior Sports Officer at the AUSC Yaoundé Office observed that women in leadership and decision making played a very important role in the fight against COVID 19. She observed that women’s contribution scaled down from decision to implementation. Ms Kessy said, “At the African Union level Ministers in -charged of Gender and Women Affairs on 20 November 2020, endorsed the African Union Guidelines on Gender Responsive Responses to COVID 19 which was placed at the disposal of Member States and Partners to respond to COVID 19”. She went on to observe that on 26 February 2021, the AU gender Ministers adopted the Common African Position (CAP) that seeks to advance women’s full and effective participation and decision making in public life as well as elimination of violence for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in Africa. “The consensus is part of the strategy to ensure the continent and aspirations of African Women and girls are well articulated at the global discourse at the United Nations 65th session of the Commission on the status of women to be held from 15-26 March 2021” Kessy said.
In her keynote address, Minister Tampane lamented the escalation of aggression and violence against women and girls during the COVID-19 induced lockdowns. She called upon society to leave no stone unturned in addressing and curbing escalation and adverse effects of Gender-Based Violence. On this she said, “Violence against women and girls should be eradicated with urgency and perpetrators prosecuted”. Minister Tampane stressed that violence is not just the existence of aggression but the absence of a voice against it. “Therefore, society’s bystanders are no better than the perpetrators of aggression themselves. Our pre-occupation therefore should be to strengthen our vigilance through legislation, policy formulation and implementation to curb this scourge and rid our society of Gender-Based violence with finality” Minister Tampane said.
Region 5 has taken an active role in grooming future women leaders and is responsible for raising awareness on the role of women in sports. In an effort to push for women to occupying leadership positions in sports, the Region is currently running the Women Leadership Programme (WLP) in which twenty young women between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five years are undergoing a leadership mentorship programme in each of the ten Region 5 Member Countries. In addition, the Region has introduced the Woman4Women programme, under the tagline, “One4More” in which one woman is expected to recruit four women to participate in any sport and recreation activity of their choice. These programmes are in addition to the Female Leaders of Tomorrow (FLOT) programme jointly offered by Region 5 in partnership with The Association of International Sport for All (TAFISA) and funded by the European Union Council in which ten young women drawn from region 5 Member Countries are paired to another ten from Europe in a programme to develop them into astute sports leaders.
The webinar therefore served as the right tonic to stimulate interest by all Region 5 member Countries and society at large to heighten attention towards pragmatic actions towards women empowerment and safeguarding the rights of women and girls. In his welcome remarks, the Region 5 Executive Committee Chairperson Mr Moreetsi Bogosi pledged the Region’s resolve towards empowerment of women and girls. “Region 5 takes pride in prioritizing gender equality and equity issues as they perch top on our 2018 – 2028 Strategic Plan priorities. This is in line with our Constitutional objective 10.1.9 that of preventing any undesirable practices in sport and any form of racial, political, religious or any other form of discrimination against any Member State, team or group of individuals,” Bogosi said.
The Webinar attracted over sixty participants carefully chosen from strategic entities that are key in the drive for gender equality and equity. Scores of people followed proceedings via Region 5 Facebook live. Region 5 will be hosting a Panel Discussion on Gender in a two part series entitled “The Game Changer”. The first session is scheduled to be hosted on 15 March with the final one slated for 22 March 2021.