Women Leadership Programme and Sport for All (Malawi Chapter) has lobbied for at least 40 percent women representation in sports associations leadership positions to improve from the current 11 percent.
The body’s president Zione Ntaba, a High Court of Malawi judge, made the revelation on Sunday when 22 women graduated with a sportswomen leadership diploma in Blantyre.
She said, according to a baseline study on Women Leadership and Participation in Sports in the Africa Union Sports Council (Ausc) Region 5, Malawi is among countries with the smallest percentage of women in sports leadership as the current overall representation in the region’s federations is at 20 percent.
Ntaba explained that it was for such reasons that the Ausc in partnership with the Association for International Sports for All organised the course targeting to nurture at least 200 women leaders aged between 18 and 35 in each of the 10 Region 5 countries by 2028. Other countries are South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Angola, e-Swatini, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Lesotho.
She said: “We have a huge gap in women leadership in Malawi sports industry.
“I believe it is high time that government came up with a deliberate policy to advocate for at least 40 percent representation of women. The policy should also consider people with disability and others. Stigmatisation and discrimination should not have room in the sports industry.”
Ntaba added that it is sad to note that most of the leadership positions that women occupy in the country are co-opted and not elected.
Netball Association of Malawi (NAM) appears to be the only body whose leadership is predominantly made up of women. Out of its 10 executive members, eight are women.
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) has two women in its executive committee, representing 20 percent. Felistus Dossi was elected unopposed as FAM executive committee member while Suzgo Ngwira was co-opted by virtue of being National Women Football Association chairperson.
Out of over 30 sports associations in the country, only two have female presidents, namely Chess Association of Malawi’s Susan Namangale and NAM’s Abigail Shariff.
Namangale, who was recently voted as Zone 4.5 president, said the number of women can improve if women put themselves up for leadership positions and prove that they can do it.
She said: “Men are willing to help women that demonstrate that they have what it takes to make a difference. And when the results are visible, then a woman can push herself to achieve even much higher positions like I did.
“As for me, I was voted as Zone 4.5 president by men after they saw potential in me.
“So, I believe it is not just about being a woman that one should be given a leadership position, but being able to demonstrate capability for the role and carry the men along the process of results.”
Namangale further said women should learn to support each other when one decides to contest for a leadership position.
Dossi, the only elected female member in FAM executive committee, said she believes the biggest fear of masculine supremacy tends to be a stumbling block for women to take the leading roles in sports associations.
She said: “For me it was easy as I already work in the legal profession, which is dominated by men. As women, we lack the vital network and connections that can enable us attain these positions. We always say decisions are not made in the boardrooms but outside. I feel like men interact a lot more and have vital connections to enable them attain these leadership positions.
“But there is no need for women to have the fear of the unknown as regards taking up leadership positions in sports.”
FAM president Walter Nyamilandu said they recently undertook reforms of their constitution to make it a mandatory requirement that at least two members of the executive committee must be females, translating to 20 percent representation.
He said FAM also encourages its affiliates to adopt the same principle in the running of football by revising their statutes accordingly.
Nyamilandu said: “We have set the pace for the rest to follow. With time, the representation should increase through a natural progression.”
Hockey Association of Malawi (HAM) president Wanthanza Mughogho, whose body has vice-treasurer as the only female executive member, said women are always welcome to take up leadership positions in HAM or within the various sub-committees.
Malawi National Council of Sports acting executive secretary Shephord Boma has since urged the women sports leadership graduates to be exemplary and support one another as regards to attaining leadership positions in various disciplines in the country. “What women should know is that leadership is about serving others and not being pompous. Qualifications are nothing if you do not have personality that aspire others. Social capital is important in life,” he said.