Undoubtedly football is the passion of many if not all Ghanaians. It’s one sport which generates massive interest in the country and build bridges even between feuding political parties.
Men’s football is seen as the height of a growing brand while the spate of development in the women’s game has been disheartening, stagnated and regrettable.
It’s most disturbing to note that Ghana’s national female team was first to qualify for the World Cup at a time that the Black Stars were struggling to make a debut appearance at the global showpiece. Yet the team has not been given a matching reward for a performance which drew international admiration.
Government has invested heavily in the men’s game while the women’s game has been left to rot, yet the senior national team (Black Stars) have remained trophyless since 1982. The team has struggled to break the duck over the last three decades yet are rewarded for virtually ‘no work done’.
Constant pledges by successive presidents to invest and reward the women’s game has remained a mirage and this continuous practice can collapse the interest of women’s football in the country.
Sports is expected to be beneficial to all, and at every levels. Awesome is its generic essence aimed at improving health and self-confidence and to bringing honour and pride to one’s motherland. It is also a way of learning how to show solidarity and how to excel oneself, especially for those who build career out of it. As sports becomes increasingly part of humanitarian and development work, as well as a part of the corporate social responsibility practices of some private sector actors, interested parties should be anxious to explore the potential, as well as the limitations, of sports in their work. For these very different actors to understand each other better, it becomes necessary to develop common definitions and frameworks for action in order to improve practice. But the harsh reality is that in Ghana a lot of factors are militating against these lofty objectives. Of course, there’s always the possibility that some people just don’t think women belong in the world of football association, whether it’s males or females on the pitch. But that’s another debate entirely.
Sadly it seems that women suffer frequent discrimination in their access to, and practice of, both amateur and professional sports. This discrimination manifests itself in the persistence of stereotyping, the lack of a back-up and support structure for sportswomen and for girls who show potential in their sports, the difficulty of reconciling work/sport and family life, the problem of reintegrating into the world of work, inadequate media coverage of women’s sports and the limited nature of private funding. Government and other stakeholders in sports should actively involve in the vanguard of encouraging women and girls to take part in sports from their school days onwards and all their lives, promote gender mainstreaming in public policy concerning sports, support women’s sport and women’s participation in top-level sport, favour women playing a greater part in sport’s ruling bodies and encourage better media coverage of women’s sport to garner optimum yields.
For the women’s game to thrive, the following bullet points must be considered to accelerate its development.
v Physical education should be accorded more importance in school curricula and women and girls should be encouraged to take part in sports from their schooldays onwards, while respecting the principle of co-education.
v Responsible officials in the departments of sports, education and health should be mandated in awareness-raising and information campaigns on the necessity of practising sports, in particular for women of all ages, including handicapped women;
v Gender should be taken into consideration in the definition of public action to promote sports (gender mainstreaming) and in the allocation of funds intended for sports activities (gender budgeting).
v Purposeful action should be taken to promote women’s sports, particularly in respect of highly popular sports.
v There should be support for women’s participation in top-level sports;
v Equal treatment and compensation for women and men in terms of pay, prize-money and bonuses derived from professional sports.
Our government should realize that where a gender balance is encouraged in sports activities it would foster development for growth for the nation. Sports should be a way of bringing boys and girls together socially, teaching them to base the lives they share on common rules centred on respect for one another and on fair play. Involvement in sports therefore has to be regarded as a preventive factor against risky behaviour (such as drug abuse), as an integrating factor and as an opportunity to promote gender balance, particularly at school, where physical education lessons must continue to be opened to all and to offer activities for boys and girls together.
A comprehensive approach must be taken by governments in conjunction with development agencies and women themselves to remove the social, economic and legal bottlenecks on women. Productive and meaningful actions are also needed for implementing common position for the advancement of women in sports and regarding everything that affects them. National action plans must be designed in broad consultation with women’s groups to complement regional and national initiatives.
God bless Ghana!
This article written by Patrick Akoto, Augustine Danso, Jeffrey Owusu-Mensah, Dean Akoto, Gabriel Myers Hansen, Jerome Quaicoo and Theresa Osei (GIJ)