Shining the spotlight on women in sports

Combined picture of Caster Semenya, Desiree Elliss and Natalie Du Toit

Women in sports have come a long way. We have seen pioneers that have paved the way for aspiring athletes and have transformed the perception of women competing and playing sports. 

This month we celebrate all women in sport by shining the spotlight on their work, despite the challenges of inequality that still linger on. 

In South Africa, we commemorate more than 20 000 women who peacefully marched to the Union Buildings in protest against the extension of Pass Laws for women. This heroic deed took place on August 9 and encouraged several other women from all walks of life to stand up and speak up for their rights, from perspectives ranging from business to sports.

August has since been seen as Women’s Month, during which we all look forward to embracing and empowering each other as women. The physical, mental and emotional strength a woman possesses is shown through her power of nurturing and the leadership she embodies which inspires whoever she meets. 

These professional sports gems are ‘made in South Africa’ and do us proud. Whether they are competing in international sporting arenas or on local soil, it’s time we pay homage to them and enlighten young and upcoming athletes with the examples they have set.

Caster Semenya

Caster Semenya

Caster Semenya is a 800m Olympic runner and a winner of numerous medals and awards. She is known for her contribution in fighting for gender equality in sports.

Desiree Ellis is the Banyana Banyana coach who took the soccer team to the Women’s World Cup. She has also been recognised internationally and has received the Women’s African Coach of the Year award in the 2019 CAF Awards.

Carol Tshabalala

Carol Tshabalala is one of the very few female sport journalists, who has inspired many to work hard and excel in the male-dominated industry of sports journalism.

Natalie du Toit is the first disabled woman to swim in the Olympics. Du Toit shot to fame after qualifying to swim in the 800m able bodied race during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

Portia Modise

Portia Modise during the Walter Sisulu Challenge Launch at the Nike Centre in Johannesburg on the 22 November 2016©Samuel Shivambu/Backpagepix

Portia Modise is known for scoring more goals in her international career than those of renowned soccer players Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo. The former player is described as being fierce by international commentators.

VICE sports analyst and commentator Sky Tshabalala said: “There is no other way to put it. People have this perception that women’s soccer is easy but that isn’t true. You can’t score 100 international goals cause you’re lucky. Portia was a competitor, she is fierce that way.” 

Although women are instrumental in the growth of sports, they do not have the same opportunities when compared to men. Professional female athletes still find it difficult to be well represented in order to gain sponsorships and recognition. Although there have been policies that aim to make a conducive working environment for women in sport, there has not been much in the way of actual improvement within the sports field. South Africa has the ability to make the lives of sports women better by providing enough media coverage to games and profiles, funding and opportunities.