Article written

  • on 20.06.2010
  • at 08:00 AM
  • by Staff

Africa and the World Cup: Gender discrimination lingers 1

The wave of sentimentality surrounding Africa‘s first World Cup has concealed the persistence of marked gender discrimination around both how countries use public funds and conceive of organised sport, writes Salma

Maoulidi. Football’s popularity in countries like Tanzania and the political capital to be had by pandering to its followers, Maoulidi highlights, end up reinforcing discriminatory funding allocations and perpetuating a mismatch of opportunity along gender lines.

The BBC Swahili and Africa service on the internet is a lifeline for those of us on the move wanting to access regular national and regional news. But as I was trying to catch the news on the eve of the African World Cup, to my sheer dismay a recorded message kept playing: ‘There are no programmes on this channel at present…’ Had the Swahili service and the Africa service staff decided to do away with the daily current affairs programmes during the World Cup? Is football the official news of and from Africa over the next few weeks?

The slogan for the World Cup that came out from South Africa is ‘Can you feel it?’ And feeling it we are. A few days before the countdown an email was circulated intending to warn wives, in particular, and women in general about minimum operating standards of matrimonial and romantic relationships during the duration of the World Cup. The message is clear: Men are free to relinquish any social or family status and responsibility they may have during this period and wish to be left alone. They may as well move to Soccer City or a country called Football to actualise their nirvana.

The problem is I am not sure all men would want to be characterised as such, that is, that they would lose their mind over a game, or worse, that being male is synonymous with being a football addict or lover (and in the same vein, that being a woman means that one is indifferent to football). What is certain however is that whether I and many other indifferent folks like it or not, Africa, in the next few weeks, will be seized with football fever. Surprisingly, everybody, not just big business, is taking notice, including otherwise apathetic governments.

Decidedly, football in Africa is fast assuming a national priority status. Consider this: the national football team in Tanzania is one of the top priorities of a scandal-ridden president. Recently, according to Bwana Makengeza, for 90 minutes of play time he spent over 3 billion Tsh (Tanzanian shillings) to get the Brazilian national team to Tanzania in a pre-World Cup friendly with the Tanzania national team. In his short tenure as president, soccer academies have been started to develop little football geniuses who it is hoped will become the Tanzanian Didier Drogbas or Michael Essiens.

In Rwanda too football is a political investment. The Kagame Cup played in East Africa has advanced the cause for regional integration. It has also emphasised the need for serious investment in sports to complement Africa’s development vision. Kenya and Ethiopia led the pack in the eastern Africa region among countries using sport, and more specifically long-distance running, as a from-rags-to-riches option for its citizenry, but in this case the country only facilitates serious and promising athletes, leaving the rest to the athletes themselves or to foreign coaches who want to be associated with a rising African hopeful.

While such developments are welcome, they need to be carefully considered in light of the operating realities on the continent and in individual countries. For instance, Tanzania ranks 151 out of 182 countries in the 2009 Human Development Report. Between 1990 and 2007, Tanzania’s Human Development Index (HDI) rose by 1.15 per cent annually from 0.436 to 0.530. The Human Poverty Index (HPI-1) for Tanzania stands at 30.0 per cent, giving it a rank of 93 among 135 countries for which the index has been calculated. In 2007, 33.4 per cent of Tanzanians lived below the national poverty line, which is around US$1.1, while about 40 per cent of the population lives in abject poverty.

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By Salma MaoulidiPambazuka News

Picture by Yasuyoshi Chiba

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