Netball is a predominantly women’s game but disturbing details have emerged that men are slowly, but steadily, dominating leadership positions in the sport at all levels nationwide, Malawi News can reveal.
At the recent Netball Association of Malawi elective Annual General Meeting (AGM) held in Salima District on August 7, 24 men voted— with women casting 24 votes as well.
Our findings show that, out of 28 districts in Malawi, there are 20 men chairpersons while women lead in the remaining eight.
The Central Region Netball Committee is, for instance, headed by a man [Fanuel Katengeza] while another man Whyte Mulilima heads the National Coaches Committee.
Apparently, it seems, both the present and immediate past committee did not care about following dictates of Nam’s constitution, which calls for women empowerment.
According to the Nam constitution, the sport is supposed to have “total women representation at all levels”, which is, surprisingly, not happening either at district, regional or national level.
Article 2 of the constitution reads: “Encourage and promote total women representation at all levels of administration of the sports of Netball, and undertake and or do all things or activities which are necessary, incidental or conducive to the advancement of these objects (Object 2 P & Q).”
Ironically, this is unlike at National Women’s Football Association, where the constitution was amended and empowers women to hold top positions such as those of chairperson, vice chairperson, general secretary and treasurer while men can be elected as committee members and head of technical committees.
A former Nam official, who did not want to be mentioned, said it was disgraceful that women leaders were in the lead when it comes to contravening the association’s constitution.
“If we were serious about women and netball, then none of this would have happened. It is sad that it is women who are frustrating fellow women at the expense of the sport. If you critically look at district level netball, you would notice that most districts in the Northern Region have male chairpersons because they were handpicked to suit the interest of some leaders,” said the source.
Gender activist Beatrice Mateyu described the details as disturbing, questioning why women were overlooked in what is supposed to be their own game.
“It is not good to have men dominating women’s spaces as the sports fraternity is already heavily dominated by men,” she said.
Sports analyst George Kaudza-Masina was left equally dumbfounded.
“Netball in Malawi has been captured by men when it is purely a women’s sport. This is evident from the results of the recent elective AGM, where key positions were grabbed by men,” Masina said, in reference to Nam’s newly elected vice president Chimwemwe Bakali and General Secretary Isaac Chimwala, who defeated Anastazia Kaphale and Linda Magombo-Munthali, respectively.
Masina faulted women for allowing men to take control of the game.
“The biggest challenge is that our women have decided to play second fiddle to men right from district and club levels. This has resulted in men making a lions’ share of delegates to the disadvantage of their women counterparts,” Masina said.
It is not surprising that stakeholders are calling for policy review to empower women.
However, Mateyu said men should not be stopped from taking leadership positions but, rather, there should be mechanisms for ensuring that men do not dominate decision-making positions.
“There should be deliberate action to ensure that only women hold decision-making positions; otherwise, men will continue to dominate and override women,” she said.
Similarly, Masina called for constitutional review.
“This imbalance has to go if women were to reclaim their rightful position in netball. This is a women’s game and Nam should come up with a deliberate policy of promoting women. All key positions such as chairperson, vice chairperson, general secretary, vice general secretary and the treasurer should be the preserve of women.
“For men who are interested in the game, committee membership should be positions to vie for. Let them play their roles in the background, as opposed to the case now.
“This should be the case at club, district, regional and national levels,” he said.
Masina, while observing that women were disadvantaged during campaigns, felt that most ladies were also pulling each other down.
“It has to be appreciated that today’s campaign hinges on financial muscle and, most of the time, women are disadvantaged, giving men an upper hand to grab big positions at will.
“Women themselves should learn to support each other in these positions if the game of netball were to return to the glorious days,” he said.
Masina also proposed that women should get empowered to head technical committees.
“Even for coaches and umpires, let the women be in the lead and there must be a quota for men. Leaving positions open to both men and women would culminate in a coup de tat by our men in Malawi netball,” he said.
Newly elected Nam president Abigail Shariff said they needed to amend the constitution to address the setback.
“Our constitution allows us to have a representation of two percent for men. We need to address this during our Annual General Meeting. Otherwise, we should encourage women to show interest in following the game and taking up positions. As things stand, it is men that are showing interest in the game,” she said.
Commenting on Malawi’s scenario, World Netball [formerly International Netball Federation] Digital Marketing Manager Grace Watson said their mission was to expand netball’s worldwide reach and impact, building on unique female-focused foundations.
“World Netball will continue to acknowledge the history of our sport within an ‘open’ structure and will continue to welcome the involvement of men and boys in netball in a range of roles.
“The empowerment of women, including the engagement of women into leadership positions in sport, remains a World Netball priority, thereby contributing to addressing the existing global gender inequity in sport,” she said.
“World Netball will continue to discharge proactively its key role in inspiring women through netball, including engaging more females in both sport and physical activity and in leadership positions,” she added.