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Building Rural Sports Women

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By: Edward Frimpong

Throughout the world women continue to be under-represented in major sports. In the case of the Islamic regions of the world, the reasons for this are clearer than they are in the rest of Africa. Orthodox Islam tends to protect women from both public glare and general mixing with male strangers. Major sporting activities involve dealing with a variety of male strangers, from players to managers; from reporters to spectators, from rivals to fans. Thus the majority of Muslim women in the world feel culturally embarrassed in such situations.

However, these considerations apply far less to indigenous African culture. Why then have African women in non-Muslim areas also been underrepresented in public sporting activities? Some people might assume that the chivalry which protects women from heavy physical labor also prevents them from developing sporting physical skills. This assumptions may make some sense in the Muslim world where comparatively speaking, women are spared physical labor .But in most of Black Africa this is simply not true. Black African women often do more physical work than their men. In at least some African societies women often walk longer distances, carry heavier loads and have to learn a greater variety of balancing skills than men.
If the culture of work does indeed help to influence the culture of sports, if African women can be so physical in their economic activities on the land, why have they been so slow in excelling in the physical world of sports? One reason may be that decision-makers in African have been encouraging the wrong kind of sports. Perhaps more attention should be paid to the possibility of promoting marathon walks as a major sporting activity in Africa. Children begin to walk long distances to school quite early. Women have been walking longer and longer distances to collect of long-distance walking could be used to detect talent and to organized new patterns of competitive sports. The very chores of collecting firewood could be given a new enthusiasm and liveliness as they are purposefully linked to training young girls for competitive walking.
Weight-lifting could also be more systematically promoted among African women, as well as men. In rural Africa one continues to be astonished by the enormous bundles of firewood on the backs of women walking long distances. Huge baskets of farm produce may be balance on their heads at the same time. Rural culture would be given a new spirit if these simple chores were given greater value and prizes were awarded to young men and women who excel in purposeful weight-lifting and graceful carriage.
But the purpose of this integration between work culture and rural sports would not simply be to given women greater access to new competitive games. The purpose should also be to encourage men??to share the chores which were previously only done by women. Turning these skills into proud, competitive qualities of triumph and honor world help give them greater respectability as forms of work, as well as forms of play,
As for the linkage between work culture and sporting culture, the proposed new rural games for Africa would turn rural professions into sports. The rural professions of farming herding, collecting firewood, long distance walking for pasture or water, are all material for imaginative minds to help relieve the tedium of labor and to give women an equal to the heritage of sports.
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